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UFC’s pound-the-table moment scape-goating Stitch Duran over Reebok backlash

By Zach Arnold | July 22, 2015

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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.

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.

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?

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.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

6 Responses to “UFC’s pound-the-table moment scape-goating Stitch Duran over Reebok backlash”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    The Reebok deal has been bad on so many levels.

    The “kit” has already dropped in price by $20. Which mean it was a failure out of the gate.

    Reebok does not understand MMA. The UFC does not care about the fighters. The fighters have no balls to create a union.

  2. ad-lib says:

    “First it was Burt Watson and now it’s Stitch Duran.”

    Burt Watson was fired by the UFC for comments he made?

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    The real angle the fighters should be playing (and if they had a union and a good PR guy they would do it)…

    The UFC is putting the uniform company ahead of the fighters safety…

  4. King Famous says:

    45 makes a good point. Stitches book is really good and tells his story as a martial artist. I can’t imagine the guy who wrote that book talking out of line or acting like a fool. Anyone see the picture of the vest they used at 189? I couldn’t find one.

  5. David m says:

    I’m embarrassed for the UFC. I think this is the pettiest thing I’ve ever seen.

  6. SonnensRoidedNut says:

    Zach said,

    “They’re happy to cash in but not risk any control in exchange for the possibility of greater rewards. ”

    Zach. What is the greater reward you speak of? What awaits the UFC if it follows the advice you give on handling three of your main bullet points over the past two years:

    - Should the UFC cancel out the bad Reebok deal? Then give pack the $11 million a year they get? Allow the fighters to make that (plus a lot more)on their own?

    - Should the UFC allow the fighters to form a union? Forcing low & mid tier fighters (who don’t draw more than 20 fans) into getting huge fight/pay increases?

    - Should the UFC cutting back on events so as to allow more ’stacked’ events? Appeal to the hard-core fans who long for the glory days of Pride (like youself Zach), creating illusionary talented cards, while maintaining only maybe a 1/3 of the fighters you have today?

    Zach (or anyone else), the UFC does a lot of things wrong these days and at least on the subsurface level , can’t seem to not trip over themselves with idiocy. But in regards to the point of ‘greater rewards’, what greater rewards will the UFC get if it does what is called for by you, with those three points you have raised quite often?

    It’s easy to throw daggers from a blog, it’s a bit harder to come up with solutions.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.


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