When the UFC inked one of the biggest deals in the promotion’s history with Reebok, who would become the company’s official sponsor and create the all-new UFC uniforms, many questions arose, especially from fighters and how their pay would be affected.
What we do know is that fighter pay from the Reebok sponsorship will be based on their rankings. This may start to affect how some fighters look at their opponents, and that’s the case with veteran lightweight Joe Lauzon. Usually just looking for a good, exciting opponent, “J-Lau” is now looking for the most meaningful opponents.
Lauzon also said that he usually makes between $20,000 and $30,000 per fight in sponsorship revenue, compared to newer fighters who he predicts make between $2,000 and $8,000 per fight. A few weeks back, the lightweight attended a UFC meeting where the Reebok deal was being discussed, only to find out that his current sponsorship earnings could take a big hit. He added that the UFC is taking a “hard stance” as to how fighters will be paid for their sponsorships.
Another fighter in attendance, UFC middleweight Ed Herman asked, ‘I’ve had 17 fights in the UFC – am I going to be the same as someone on their first fight?’” Lauzon today told MMAjunkie Radio. “And they’re like, ‘Yes.’”
The new deal is set to go into effect in July. The fighters will earn salaries based on a tier system in regards to the UFC’s rankings, which are oddly, constructed by the media members. This is not a good sign for Lauzon. He has 18 UFC fights, the most post-fight bonuses in UFC history, and is a fan-favorite, but will be on the lowest tier of fighters when this system goes live.
This could mean, that Lauzon will be earning the same amount of sponsorship money as a newly signed fighter with one or two fights. He elaborated on his thoughts:
“(UFC lightweight) Joe Proctor trains at my gym,” Lauzon said. “He was on ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ had a couple of (UFC) fights. He’s technically unranked; I’m unranked. But I make a lot more sponsors than he does.
“Looking at the new system, we’re going to be on the exact same page, which is pretty crappy.”
Lauzon, although currently unhappy with the deal, believes in the UFC, and believes that they will make things right as time goes on:
“But I think as time goes on, they’ll fix it,” he said.
Although he would likely never receive a title shot, Lauzon was happy with his earnings before the Reebok singing. Now, it looks as if things will be changing, but “J-Lau” says he will fight on:
“I really enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “I love fighting for fans. It’s a lot better than going back to computer science.”
The rankings have now become all the more important for fighter’s and fighter’s lives. Lauzon says he will await the number’s each tier will earn before judging the Reebok deal. He also said the UFC is saying these numbers will be in sometime in May:
“They’re telling us that they’re going to give us some kind of numbers, or we’ll have some kind of distinction, in May,” he said. “So that will be when you can say this is good, and this is bad, and anything could change at the drop of a hat.”
Lauzon is undoubtedly one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC, and a fan-favorite at best. But these things now mean very little to his income, and Lauzon knows that, saying he now feels as if he needs to fight the toughest opponent available instead of trying to put on an exciting fight:
“Until now, I’ve gotten paid less per fight, but I’ve gotten good matchups,” he said. “I’ve had good, exciting fights. I’m not trying to fight a guy in the top-five every single time. If it’s a guy that’s ranked No. 10, that’s cool. If it’s a guy that’s unranked, that’s cool.”
“But now, with the rankings, I feel like I’m going to want to fight tougher guys.”
Lauzon will likely stay with the UFC for quite some time, but it looks as if he has now gone from being one of the most exciting fighters on the roster to being compared with UFC newcomers, which is just unfair. How do you feel about this deal as news continues to unfold?