The announcement of the official Reebok fighter pay tier structures sent shockwaves through the mixed martial arts (MMA) world mainly because it will mean a whole lot of different things for many different fighters.
There are some good things, some bad things, and some all-out horrific aspects of the program that no one is still all that sure about. Let’s take a look at how the Reebok deal and its supposedly constricting payout structure will impact the UFC in the immediate future.
First, let’s get the good stuff out of the way. On the surface, the UFC promises fighters the security of not having to chase down dishonest sponsors who aren’t paying up on their end of the bargain. While that’s definitely an unfortunate situation that we’ve seen happen way too much in recent years, it may not be worth the drastic cut in sponsorship pay just to be ensured $2,500 as a Tier 1 fighter.
Overall, though, that security will be nice as fighters progress up the tiers, and it’s guaranteed that a multinational corporation like Reebok has the cash on hand to pay within 10 business days. Another positive aspect of the pay structure is that fighters can potentially earn more if the sponsorship agreement works out; today’s reported figures are supposedly ‘minimums.’ The UFC’s hard-working athletes can only hope that the rates will balloon up quickly.
Now for the bad. The immediate and glaring negative ramification is that fighters are tweeting out left and right that they are going to take absolutely catastrophic drops in sponsorship pay, and it even isn’t coming from necessarily the best fighters. Heavyweights Matt Mitrione and Brendan Schaub proclaimed that they were earning six figures in endorsements for their fights, a number that would drop to only $10,000 for each given Mitrione’s 12 UFC bouts and Schaub’s 11. That’s a huge drop-off, and it could be even more enormous for high-drawing fighters who would only get up to $30,000 for a title shot.
But Reebok has the truly big names like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey under separate and exclusive endorsement contracts, so those elite fighters obviously have nothing to worry about. It’s the lower-level fighter struggling to make ends meet by paying their coaches, trainers, nutrition, supplements, cornering expenses, and so forth that need more than $2,500 each fight to keep their dream alive.
Sure, they can make more by having their Reebok merchandise sell, but as unestablished names, that’s a hard scenario to realistically see unfolding at first. There have been whispers online that the UFC and Reebok are simply forcing fighters into selling gear in order to make money they should already be given in the first place.
And finally, the ugly. Overall this whole deal just makes the UFC’s Reebok endorsement deal come off as kind of stingy for the fighters who risk their lives and well-being for the sake of entertainment. It’s taking place in a time where fighter pay is a hot topic amidst a windfall of anti-UFC lawsuits, so perhaps this wasn’t the best time for the promotion to focus on saving each and every last dollar through the Reebok uniform program.
True to form, Lorenzo Fertitta assured us that many fighters are ‘excited’ about the sponsorship structure. With much still to figure out, should they be?
Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports