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UFC’s latest targets for sponsorship bans

By Zach Arnold | June 24, 2009

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UFC is now reportedly asking for $100,000 rights fees just for a company to even be ‘eligible’ to sponsor fighters. A company generating strong PPV revenue is this hard up for cash? Hardly. This comes off, in my opinion, more like petty politics every day in terms of controlling what fighters can make with sponsorships and also going after anyone they don’t have great relations with (think about past dealings with groups like American Kickboxing Academy) by going after their sponsors instead of going after the fighters directly.

One of the companies reportedly on the banned list is One More Round, which happens to the clothing company associated with Jacob “Stitch” Duran. Why is Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta, and others going after a cut man?

I know and understand that sports leagues like MLB and the NFL have certain sponsorship deals with companies for uniforms and so forth. However, athletes in these sports are paid full time (seasonal), have benefits, insurance, etc. By going after so many sponsors in the manner that UFC is doing, this is pure divide-and-conquer politics at its worst in terms of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Josh Stein further elaborates:

It would be unfair to accuse the UFC of intentionally damaging our access to an improving quality of MMA, but it is not entirely unfair to assert that they are depriving fighters of their right to negotiate personal contracts with sponsoring companies. Whether the fighters choose to address this with open complaints, or whether it is simply fans discussing the issue, it is important to recognize that Zuffa LLC may be toeing the line, if they have not already stepped well over, with respect to their privledge as broadcasters.

The timing of this is interesting, given how much hype and media attention there will be for UFC 100. The company has a patch of red hot shows, from UFC 100 in LV to the Philadelphia event to the upcoming Portland event.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 75 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

75 Responses to “UFC’s latest targets for sponsorship bans”

  1. Mark says:

    Assuming the 100K is a yearly fee to be allowed to advertise on fighter trunks:

    1) UFC must be distributing sponsorships themselves for this to work. And I can see that being a headache when a prelim fighter and a main card fighter are both wearing the same shorts with the same logo but the prelim fighter is making half or less of what the main card fighter is even if his prelim fight gets aired too. But I’m sure Dana will handle that with his usual “Fuck you, too bad.”

    2)45 keeps bringing up Harley and Bud as proof this is going to work, but why would they pay an additional 100K to sponsor fighters when they’re already being advertised? That makes zero sense. We see your logo on the mat, seeing it on some guy’s t-shirt and hat after the fight is overkill. People are acting like the right to pay 100K is going to be what brings more big companies in. Why aren’t they there now for free? And why would you take the risk of your sponsored fighter getting KOed in seconds to rip off your exposure when it could be on the mat the whole show?

    3) Remember, the last time UFC brokered sponsorship deals for fighters was…..Xyience. Are they going to shoulder the cost if a company doesn’t make good on what they promised a fighter? They didn’t when Xyience went deadbeat. But let’s say if a company goes bankrupt mid-deal or decides they aren’t getting enough bang for their buck and want to terminate the contract, UFC with their finger in the pie is now involved. If Xyience is any indication they’re just going to tell them to take it to court. Rip off.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    If you charge something for it, it automatically has a higher perceived value. If you charge a higher price for something, it will typically have a higher perceived value then even a similar product with a lesser price tag.

    Didn’t any of you ever go to college?

  3. Preach says:

    Well, couldn’t it possibly be that this is just a one off-deal? Even Caplan himself writes that One More Round etc are not eligible for sponsorship AT UFC 100. It’s going to be their biggest show ever, so it’d be no wonder for them to try and get sponsors for that show, that are more high profile than the usual ones.

  4. CapnHulk says:

    What will happen to the venerable Condom Depot?

    Think of the Condom Depots!

  5. Mark says:

    @45 In this economy companies want to cut corners any way they can. You mentioned NASCAR drivers losing sponsors due to a bad economy, what makes the UFC any different? Actually, it makes it worse because UFC has the still controversial tag of violent combat that tons of big money corporations might not be comfortable with. And yes, I went to college. But I don’t troll message boards pretending to agree with everything the UFC does to get a rise out of people. That’s where we differ.

    @Preach: Unless it’s just really bad reporting, why didn’t they specify “one time only” in all of this? You could be right, but since this has obviously stirred up some issues I would hope UFC would clarify if it was just once.

  6. Zack says:

    Gotta love Dana putting himself on the cover of the new UFC 100 magazine.

  7. 45 Huddle says:

    Gray Maynard vs. Roger Huerta at UFC Fight Night 19.

    The UFC is probably looking for the same result as Machida/Tito. They likely will get it. And if Maynard loses, he doesn’t have the fans like Sanchez, so no harm done.

  8. Joseph says:

    Anyone read post 47-49?

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    Where is this information coming from? The link posted was to an old Fight Opinion link. Nowhere do I see it linked to something this MMA Logic guy said.

    The idea of adding weight classes is a horrible idea. It would turn it into boxing. And it would seriously make me reconsider being a fan of the sport. I have no problem with a weight class being added if it makes sense. This is why I hate the idea:

    1. It is very boxing-esque.
    2. One of the great things about MMA is that a more devoted fan can follow each weight class rather easily.
    3. It allows fighters to avoid competition or stay champions.
    4. Right now, the majority of the guys in each top ten can’t beat the guys in the higher weight class. When you add more classes, it means that won’t be the case anymore.

    It is a short cited view of handling the sport. In the long run, it will get out of control and ruin things. Like the poster said above, it will lead to a few great years, but not for the long term.

    Lastly, if they do as a Cruiserweight Division, then there will literally be no challengers for the belts. Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight aren’t exactly stacked. Adding another belt would weaken the pool even more. And never throughout the sports history have 230 lb fighters not gotten the best out of 265 lb fighters over long haul.

    As for the 5 round main events. I don’t mind it, as long as it is a high level fight. I just don’t want to see an entire card of 5 round fights. it would make things boring.

    One last point…. Building a sport around the “Personalities” and not the “sport” is what Japan did. And it created a horrible foundation that is going to crumble. The UFC already walks a fine line with that. Adding new weight classes will just make things crumble in the long run.

  10. 45 Huddle says:

    I responded to those 3 posts, but it got flagged for a moderator.

    In short, it is a horrible idea to add weight classes. Okay to add 5 round fights to A MINIMUM of high level fights. And the UFC will suffer in the long run if they add the weight classes.

  11. 45 Huddle says:

    Also, where is the information coming from? There is no link to where it is coming from.

  12. 45 Huddle says:

    Thinking about it some more, I would be okay if they added one more weight class and did the following:

    1. Heavyweight – 265 lbs
    2. Cruiserweight – 210 lbs
    3. Light Heavyweight – 190 lbs
    4. Middleweight – 175 lbs
    5. Welterweight – 165 lbs

    6. Lightweight – 155 lbs
    7. Featherweight – 145 lbs
    8. Bantamweight – 135 lbs
    9. Flyweight – 125 lbs

    With that said, I do not want to see a weight class between 265 and 205…. It would be a horrible idea. By increasing 205 to 210, it means anybody who is 235 and under should be making the cut, and really making the Heavyweight division from 265 to 240…. Not so bad.

    And if nothing was changed, it would be much better. But to rationalize new weight classes because one or two fighters are between weight classes and because they wan to put a title elt on them is the worst idea, and would definitly lose me as a fan of the sport.

    10 years from now, few good things can come from many added weight classes. Many bad things can. When guys can easily shed ten pounds to make the next weight class, it means the right number is there. And perhaps a tiny tweekto the current system at the most. Anything else is Zuffa greed and the long term death of the sport.

  13. The Gaijin says:

    “If you charge something for it, it automatically has a higher perceived value. If you charge a higher price for something, it will typically have a higher perceived value then even a similar product with a lesser price tag.

    Didn’t any of you ever go to college?”

    This type of thinking works with consumer goods because people buying them, and generally the consuming public, know of their high(er) price tag and thus they become a coveted and status item.

    How you extrapolate that to work in the context of advertising, I don’t know. The economy sucks and people/companies are looking to cut costs and be frugal – I don’t think making them pay $100k makes any company think “Oh! We’re like the ‘Rolex’ of advertisement!”

  14. The Gaijin says:

    So obviously you didn’t go to college or you did a really shitty job of learning the concepts they teach there.

  15. Joseph says:

    45 Huddle:

    The information is real, although I provided no link. He posted it on BE, under the Affliction post.

  16. 45 Huddle says:

    The same principles apply. Obviously advertising dollars are down, but there is still advertising money out there. And $100,000 for a big company looking to sponsor somebody is really nothing, whether it’s a good economy or bad. And by putting that higher price tag

    The internet is going through this exact problem right now. They have given away ad space for basically nothing for a few years, and they are finding it very hard to charge a higher price now.

    The problem with websites is that they waited for it to get popular until they attempted to change their strategy.

    The UFC, at least in the minds of Zuffa, hasn’t hit a peak yet. Therefore, it is beneficial to raise the bar now, whether it be for themselves of for the fighters, in order to increase the type of people advertising on their broadcasts.

    And yes, by actually putting an initial price tag on these items, it will make advertisers believe they are getting more. Doesn’t mean it’s true, but that’s what happens. Do some learning beyond the Marketing 101 Classes at Junior College. There is deception in advertising. And there is deception in getting those advertising dollars. It’s a two way street.

    UFC 103 vs. Mayweather/Marquez…. Both scheduled for September 13th.

  17. 45 Huddle says:


    I just got done reading MMA Logic. WOW!! The warchest he is talking about obviously is tons of cash.

    He did say Affliction didn’t even break 100,000 buys.

    I get the feeling from what he said that the UFC and Strikeforce are on friendlier terms then anybody really thinks. That Strikeforce knows their role and are there to take up the Showtime deal and it helps the UFC. Not to mention that if Strikeforce messes with the UFC, the UFC will just go after their talent and crush them.

    I assume the new weight classes will be:

    265, 220, 205, 195, 185, 175, 165…. And then the WEC will have 155, 145, 135, & 125.

    If this does happen, I likely won’t be on these message boards anymore. MMA will officially be like boxing. Not good.

    I also get the sense that they are preparing for a war with Goldenboy. And they are prepared to up the stars salaries in order to do so. Not to mention just look to crush them.

  18. Mark says:

    Hahaha. It’s clear the troll doesn’t even pretend to believe in what he’s saying this time. Better luck next time.

    You can’t compare the entire internet to buying space on a t-shirt for some guy to wear for 3 minutes total in front of 600,000 viewers.

    But at least we’ve been upgraded to Junior College status. Hopefully a small state college will be next.

  19. 45 Huddle says:

    The concept is the same. It’s about how you position yourself from the start and the value you put along with your product.

  20. Mark says:

    No, they are two different concepts.

    When you talk about the internet advertising previously being cheap, you are referring to the days where people would put “This Space For Rent” areas on their website for cheap. The increased costs are due to a completely different system where Google or AdBrite and the like take higher fees but distribute ads to millions and millions of sites in their ad bars. Not only are you getting increased exposure, but they use keyword filters to make sure your ad is placed on a site discussing the same field you’re trying to advertise about.

    With UFC on the other hand, you’re getting the same exposure those fighters gave you when you only paid them directly….except it’s going to cost you $100,000 in a shakedown to Zuffa, so, according to you it will “feel more important.”No larger audience to expose to, no increased visability like zooming in on the logos. Just “we think we’d both feel more important if you paid us too.”

    And Monte Cox, who is in the loop of MMA news unlike we spectators, made a claim that it will be 100K per event. Maybe he’s full of shit, but with the UFC power trip there’s a reason why nobody but certain gimmick posters are playing it down and why it sounds completely believable.

  21. The Gaijin says:

    While I always loathe when people do this – I’m just a little sick of you making flawed and incorrect arguments and then insulting those who are smart enough to know you are full it by attacking their “juco education” – and I’m sure there are even more educated people than I. But my “juco 101 education” consists of graduating in the top of my class from a top Canadian university with a pre-med degree, graduating in the top 5% of my class from the best law school in Canada and then getting accepted to do an MBA at Harvard and Columbia. So I’ll make sure to let all my alma matters to know what a shitty “juco education” they’ve provided me when I could have gotten a marketing education from a guy on the interwebz.

    While I do roam these message boards as a fan of the sport and looking for casual, mindless conversations on mma – I really don’t appreciate faux intellect snobs who try to ignorantly thumb their noses at people when they don’t have a clue.

  22. 45 Huddle says:

    And yet you are now the very thing you loath. Obviously somebody with a high enough education level could understand that and avoid it. You could not.

  23. Mark says:

    A look at what rate Spike sells their TV ads for Fight Nights would settle the debate.

    I’d be shocked if Spike sells ads for that much higher than they sold ads for Monday Night Raw a few years ago. They’ve still got the stigma of having a bunch of broke, blue collar fans like pro wrestling does. UFC and WWE basically have the same kind of advertisers, just with the UFC having liquor ads that the WWE couldn’t get due to the large amount of children watching. But junk food, pre-paid cell phones, shitty movies, video games, all the same low-caliber advertisers.

    It’s always interesting to see that USA Network sells the same space Raw occupies for double or triple when Tennis and the Dog Show preempt it. And Raw gets triple the ratings they would. But the viewership is seen in a higher class. It’s not totally true, but Fortune 500 companies view the UFC audience as low-class.

  24. The nuthuggers will debate values and rates to justify this move but bottom line is when a company makes millions and pays main event guys like Jardine 14,000$, those dinky little sponsors are the only source of steady income they have to you know…eat, live, train. This is another move that fits in with the Fitch saga, Couture one and so many more.

    I do wonder what its gonna take for some politician to get interested in seeing why the Ali Act doesnt cover MMA.
    The act restricts the types of contract that a boxer may be required to sign and having the wording changed on the Ali Act to cover all combat sports instead of just one should be relatively easy.

    A union is a an idea that wont work but using some existing mechanisms in an existing law to limit the conditions that can be imposed on fighters seems more likely.

    PS: I know of the Ali Act but not much substance so if someone has info, Id be very interested as to how it could relate to MMA.

  25. Rob Maysey says:


    I have written a number of articles on the Ali Act, and you can see them here:


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