By Zach Arnold | July 22, 2015
Let this sink in for a moment. UFC signed a $70 million dollar deal with Reebok over six years in which Reebok controls what fighters & staff wear at UFC events. Which means UFC killed sponsorships for individuals classified as independent contractors. Which plays right into the current anti-trust lawsuit right now in Las Vegas Federal court.
Throw in the supposed fact that cut-men working for UFC can’t work for other MMA promoters and you may as well scream “restraint of trade!” on the mountain tops.
You might as well also scream “retaliation!” after UFC fired veteran cut-man Jacob “Stitch” Duran for recent comments he made regarding how much income he is losing because of the Reebok uniform deal with UFC. First it was Burt Watson and now it’s Stitch Duran. In a classic Vince McMahon-style move, UFC fired someone they considered on the low end of their totem pole in order to scare the daylights out of agents & fighters.
Amazing watching every UFC fighter managed and associated with Ali Abdelaziz dropping pro-Reebok takes in succession.
— papadopoulos (@pdlmma) July 22, 2015
What’s amazing to watch unfold with UFC right now is how the Reebok deal has managed to not only buttress the legal arguments made in the anti-trust lawsuit but also provide Bellator with an opportunity to attract free agents by allowing fighters and staff to hire their own sponsors like an independent contractor should be able to in the first place.
What’s even more amazing is this: UFC is going to the mattresses over $11.7 million dollars a year and we don’t even know what the breakdown is regarding cash versus gear/merchandise from Reebok.
- From the outside-looking-in, does this sound like a company that can entice grade A blue-chip athletic prospects from other sports to professionally fight full-time without significant sponsorship cash?
- Given their current behavior, does this sound like a company with great growth potential?
- Does this sound like a company where management is so paranoid about being penny-wise that they’re being pound-foolish?
Stitch Duran wasn’t just a cut-man. He was a cog in the machine that oversaw fighter safety in the same way Burt Watson made sure the fighters were taken care of. UFC is so scared of criticism, mild or manic, about their $11.7 million dollar yearly deal with Reebok that they’re firing people who helped make the organization what it is today. They are so thin-skinned, so paranoid, and stuck in an internal bubble to understand what kind of messages they are sending to those in the business world who could be future business partners.
After the public relations hell Reebok has gone through, why would you want the headaches of being a business partner with the UFC if that coveted 18-to-34-year old demographic is ready to savage your brand on social media?
$ matters. My long-term bearish argument against Dana/Lorenzo UFC ownership is they would be too cheap & petty and lose top prospects/staff.
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) July 22, 2015
What’s going to damage UFC’s ability to grow long-term isn’t one firing or one scandal. It’s going to be a slow stunting of growth by a thousand paper cuts. A myriad of self-inflicted & impulsive wounds. This is a company that can help create mainstream stars like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor when they want to. They just want total control in the process. They can’t help themselves make more money because they’re too proud to give up any sort of control of the market they dominate. They’re happy to cash in but not risk any control in exchange for the possibility of greater rewards.
The smaller the concession or slight, the angrier management reacts. Small-time carny logic from a sports property with high visibility. They hate the Camel’s nose in the Vegas desert circus tent. UFC is its own worst enemy.