The Reebok Deal has a fan!
So far, unless there is some guy actually named Giblert Melendez, no one is impressed with The Reebok Deal. Reflect for a moment on what combat sports apparel people wear in your fight gym (unless they got Reebok free via fighting or cornering in the UFC). That tells the story.
The UFC got the uniform look they wanted, but the fighters uniformly look like an Uno card, and the UFC makes no profit on the deal. A number of fighters have offered positive expressions about the guaranteed figures, but they are eclipsed by the number of fighters who are bitter over no longer being allowed to secure their own sponsors, which in the heyday could equal purses. And Reebok cannot be delighted with the fan feedback, which has been scathing.
However, during a conversation with Luke Thomas at Tuesday’s Bellator 180 press conference, promotion president Scott Coker said he was happy about the UFC Reebok Deal.
“I think it been very good for our business, honestly,” said Coker, as transcribed by Ryan Harkness for MMA Mania. “Fighters want the freedom to get their own sponsors. They just want the freedom, and they don’t like … this is the deal, I know fighters, big name fighters, that say ‘Hey, I had million dollar sponsors. Now I have 40,000 every time I fight or 20,000 every time I fight.’ All that sponsorship went away. And these are big names over there.”
“I think people want a certain amount of freedom, and that’s what we give. We give them the freedom to get your own sponsorships. You won’t be stopped from getting somebody that you feel fits you as a person, as a personality, and I think that’s the way it should be.”
In fairness to the UFC, it is not at all clear that fighters are doing better with sponsorships outside the UFC, and there are some signs that they are not. Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson was vocal in his criticism of the Reebok Deal. However, when he made his Bellator debut, his shorts featured two logos – the gym he trains at (MMA Lab) and the noble Folds of Honor which provides educational scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen and disabled US service members.
Another vocal critic of the Reebok Deal, Ryan Bader, recently signed with Bellator MMA. If he makes his debut without a lucrative sponsor, it will be yet another sign that the sponsorship market is now radically changed, and as bad as Reebok is, it could be lots worse.