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5th Anniversary of the UFC-Reebok Deal: Opinions on the matter now compared to then?

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GreenHornet
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02.02.2020 | 2:14 PM ET


Time sure flies by quick eh?

The MMA world has changed a lot since the start of the new millennium but nothing has been more drastic than the recent changes to the UFC over the past five, as the world leader in Mixed Martial Arts is almost a completely different promotion than what it was five years ago. And the genesis of that transformation is arguably this decision right here. The highly controversial UFC-Reebok Uniform deal. A deal that has sparked a lot of frustration, disappointment, as well as hilarious memes that has given Reebok a general feeling of disgust associated with the brand's entry into the sport from the fans.  And while there is certainly a lot to hammer them for that is justified, has that remained true into today? This is something that genuinely has my interest as this once contentious issue has sort of faded into the background among the other problems with the leading promotion in the world of MMA. So while the deal was signed in December of 2014 and truly went into full effect in May/June of 2015, I figured now is as good of a time as any to talk about the matter before the deal expires in 2021 and the matter of fighter uniforms comes back into the foreground once again as to whether or not Zuffa will stick to their guns or stop the uniform experiment. 


So I ask, now that we are five years into it and one left to go, where do you stand on the Reebok deal now? Has it gotten better, stayed the same, or has it gotten even worse in your opinion?  Will the UFC stay the course on this or will they go back to pre 2015?  If they keep fighter unis, will Reebok still be around or will it go to Adidas, Nike, Under Armour, Puma or what have you?

Also as a side question, regardless of personal opinion of the deal, do you think the deal has accomplished the goal Dana and Zuffa wanted in opening doors to further push MMA into the mainstream (well more mainstream than it already was)? If yes, is that good or bad for the sport?

* Edited at 02.02.2020, 5:10 PM ET *

"It's either blue cheese with wings or go ****************!" - Uncle Joey Diaz

Responses

GreenHornet
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02.02.2020 | 2:15 PM ET

Sorry for the mountain of text and questions btw.  You can select and choose which ones you want to answer.  Because I am genuinely curious on where people stand on this now.

"It's either blue cheese with wings or go ****************!" - Uncle Joey Diaz

Huiop532
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02.02.2020 | 2:42 PM ET

I don’t buy into Reebok being brought in to make the UFC “more mainstream.” ZUFFA brought in Reebok to be able to sell the UFC for more money. Now that Reebok has served its main purpose, I think that they just need to do away with it, but I don’t think they will. Fighters need their own sponsors and make a lot more from those than they do from Reebok. I just don’t think Reebok is going anywhere. If they do separate, I could definitely see the UFC signing with another apparel line. If that does happen, I just hope it’s better than what they’ve got right now with Reebok.

"Dana was like Conor McGregor in the Nate Diaz fight; quick tap." - Matt Serra

SonnensSyringe
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02.02.2020 | 3:07 PM ET

I understand the motive for an official uniform/merchandising deal. In theory, it adds an air of legitimacy to the organization, and by extension the entire sport. However, restricting the freedom of individual fighters to chase their own sponsorships for their fighting attire really ends up shafting competitors who are lower on the UFC's ladder. Without traditional endorsement deals, their main source of income comes from simply accepting fights (and in many cases, win bonuses are essential as well). This reality is made harsher when understanding that fighters are not the only people relying on those funds to make a living. Trainers, corner men, and each member of the fight team need to be compensated as well. Unless you're at the very top of the rung, your ability to generate a sustainable quality of life on fighting alone is severely hampered. On top of that, the idea of a standardized uniform also feels like it goes against the spirit of individuality that MMA had prided itself on since its inception nearly 30 years ago. I could expand on this even further, but I'm currently neglecting my friends at our pre-Super Bowl party. If anyone wants my full thoughts though, feel free to post on my wall and I'd be happy to go on.

And hey, the uniforms look sweet. So, I mean, at least there's that.

Love and miss all of you. I make no promises to be more present. But I will always glance at the forums from time to time.

Best,
SS

* Edited at 02.02.2020, 3:08 PM ET *

"You look like a 1987 John Hughes high school bully." - Swickotine

cpresfun
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02.02.2020 | 3:46 PM ET

It's hard to paint it with a full brush stroke if it's been good or bad. The reception still seems to be overall negative but not as vitriolic as it was 2-3 years ago. Maybe there are few athletes in the UFC that have been around long enough to remember how much they were making in the UFC pre-Reebok and so there are fewer fighters "losing money" that they used to make. The Leslie Smiths and Kajan Johnsons are mostly gone.


I'd be surprised if the UFC re-signed with them, unless there was a lot of changes made to the deal. If not them, they're gonna go with another big apparel company. No way I see them going back to the Wild West when they could put anything on their shorts and look like a nascar. The uniform designs are fine, but I wish that fighters could add a few pre-approved sponsors to the shorts. Of course, the only way this deal truly becomes what the fighters want is if they have a seat at the table. The deal was probably made for several reasons- raising fighter pay wasn't one of them, but I'd bet their end game was to position themselves for an ESPN deal from the start of Reebok, and I've heard that the uniforms helped build the deal a good bit. 

However, I expected more from Reebok in terms of selling the fans their UFC-themed apparel. The commercials were always super lame and I never felt like I "had to have" UFC reebok gear. Some of the fighter-specific walkout Ts were cool, others not. And I just hardly ever see much Reebok stuff at sporting goods stores. If Reebok had produced a lot of "must-have" fight apparel, they could have taken in a lot more money, which at least a part of that goes back to the fighters. So I suppose if that part of the puzzle would have been better, it would have alleviated a lot of fighter and fan criticism.
freemoneyforall
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02.02.2020 | 4:20 PM ET

**** Reebok. ******* idiots spelled fighters names wrong on their own gear. Multiple women had gear malfunction and close calls. And other then the zip up hoodie I think it's all ugly. Fighters get screwed royally on the sponsorship money they could make.
Dana had his own agenda and even if ufc doesn't go with Reebok it will never go back to the NASCAR days. 

"R.I.P Hippie"

ImperatorFishrat
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02.02.2020 | 5:00 PM ET

The Reebok deal is basically cancer--for Fighters, at least. It does nothing to serve them at any point in their careers and essentially just robs them of a retirement fund. It's the sort of thing that gets worse the more you think about it. It's not just slightly bad, it is monstrously bad. However, being a UFC fighter isn't exactly breaking rocks in the workhouse either for other reasons. It's complicated.

Let's break it down:


Firstly, it's metered and tiered. Fighters with1-5 bouts receive  $2,500, 6-10-fights gets 5k, 11-15 get 10k, 16-20 fights get 20k and fighters above get 21 bouts get 20k. Champions get 40k per fight, and title challengers get 30k per bout.

Note that these are UFC bouts only. 

You don't need to be a genius to understand how this is ******y. Firstly, it it doesn't help debutante or emerging fighters at all. 2.5k is chicken scratch. Dana White has actually tried to justify the Reebok sponsorship deal in these terms multiple times,  the argument being that  'At least everybody gets something'.  He has frequently used Boxing as an example. This is a classic fallacy of relevance, because two wrongs don't make a right. It's also not a useful comparison to make, because a salient one would be to compare how much Boxing champions make in sponsorship compared to UFC champions. What Boxing doesn't do is lock fighters into fractional return sponsorship deals and completely restrict their ability to test the waters in other promotions.

Secondly, because an average fighter will fight only around three times per year, they will, by the standards of MMA fighting, be fairly long in the tooth and shopworn by the time they start getting into the higher payment brackets. This is compounded by the fact the more training a fights a fighter endures, the higher the risk of injury which has flow-on effects to the rate at which they will fight. It's a bad coefficient. It's very possible that fighters will never reach the 20k bracket.

Thirdly (and this is the big one) the exchange value is horrific. The more fights a fighter takes, the higher the probability that their marketing value index rises, and the more they are worth in terms of sponsorship. Even the highest brackets of pay at 30 and 40k are pittances compared to what people like Jones, DC, Cerrone ETC could make on the free market. Conor Mcgregor probably spends 20k on hideous suits during fight week. Moreover, the biggest money is made in being a champ or a challenger...and very few fighters hold on to those statuses for more than a few fights.

Reality is, UFC benefits from the Reebok deal and fighters do not. And they benefit from both ends, especially in terms of risk: Unproven fighters are cheap in terms of sponsorship payments, and because payments are tiered and increases  (and decreases) incrementally whilst their marketing value increases exponentially.....they kind of can't lose, and sometimes, as with a Mcgregor, they hit the jackpot and will end up paying a decimal point of a fighter's true marketing value. UFC assumes virtually no risks, fighters assume all of it. To make this worse, UFC  locks fighters into champions clauses etc which makes it impossible for them to Jump ship and earn big sponsorship skrilla elsewhere.

But wait--didn't I say early on that it isn't all breaking rocks in the workhouse? Well, Fighters can promote other products and services outside of UFC events. However, these have to be UFC approved. So you won't find Donald Cerrone promoting Bellator (and I assume any other Redstone-owned thing) out and about in the world.

In summation it ranges from fairly bad to horrible. MMA needs the Ali act or something similar and before this happens exploitation is going to continue to be par for the course. It's also especially horrible for WMMA fighters, because WMMA hasn't been around that long in UFC anyway, and  WMMA fights occur at much slower rates in UFC.

Cowboy was fined a **** tonne for stitching a scrap of his old shorts for luck onto his new ones. So yeah, they don't **** around with this ****, either.








* Edited at 02.02.2020, 5:12 PM ET *

"Language is a form of communication--Israel Adesanya."

GreenHornet
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02.02.2020 | 6:27 PM ET


In what should be no shock to anyone, I am in agreement that the Reebok deal has been nothing short of a disaster for everyone outside of the UFC head brass and in particular Dana White.  This deal resulted in the undercutting of what an MMA fighter's value is truly worth which makes it easier for the UFC to leverage fighters and hurts their negotiating power as independent contractors, allowing for the Fertittas to sell the majority of their shares to Endeavor and make absolute bank in the process, opening the door for Zuffa to swing more favorable corporate sponsor deals with companies like Modelo that only benefit them, giving the opportunity for the UFC to get out from under FOX and get the legitimacy rub from ESPN while putting a good chunk of their cards behind an online streaming paywall, and overall just making it harder for people to make an honest living as professional fighters at the highest level.

 Additionally, this has resulted in the unintended consequences of seeing many of the most competent people on the UFC's staff from match making, presentation, marketing and so on to jump ship and see a decline in the overall product because people like Ari Emmanuel prioritize nonsense like "muh money fights" and "muh entertainment" over maintaining the level of sporting excellence the UFC used to represent.  Sadly, as important as the Reebok deal was to starting this mess, this stupid fighter uniform crap won't be undone and wouldn't make a difference even if it were. That said, Reebok won't be around for much longer as I'm sure Dana and company would want to upgrade to Adidas or negotiate a deal with a bigger brand like Nike to further their brand recognition.  At least I hope so.

As for what can be done to fix this mess, the one thing in my opinion that for certain won't fix it is the involvement of the US Federal Government by implementing MMA's version of the Ali act.  The only people that stand to gain from an Ali act would be a select few. The most notable benefactors would be corrupt state athletic commissions/sanctioning bodies and the big name fighters who have already made it and use their stroke to avoid certain fights.

* Edited at 02.02.2020, 10:57 PM ET *

"It's either blue cheese with wings or go ****************!" - Uncle Joey Diaz

ImperatorFishrat
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02.02.2020 | 8:39 PM ET

@Hornet the Ali Act would come with its own set of problems, but we already know what those are because they've played out in Boxing. Probably the worst of them would be the fact that the conditions which kind of force the best to fight the best in MMA would no longer exist. The only good thing about UFC is that because it has a virtual monopoly on the industry, it pays the most, and attracts the best talent, who must fight one another, which means we get to incredibly high quality fights between great fighters in their Prime. Ducking still happens in MMA but nowhere near the scale or rate it happens in Boxing, I think we could all agree on that. Additionally UFC pulls its own deck-stacking shennaigans on the regular anyway. Mcgregor getting the title shot over Gaethje for whooping old many cowboy at WW being a prime example.

I disagree with some of your other points. Ultimately, you're either a free market guy or your not, and if you are, you have to accept that workers should have the right to sell their labor to frankly whoever the **** they like in the same way that businesses should have the right to determine whether or not they want to buy it. You can't be a part-time protectionist. UFC is a company roleplaying as a promotion; it kind of treats its fighters like patents or intellectual property and the way I see it, it shouldn't have the right, nor the legal power to do this.Fight Promotions should function in the same way retail stores do; they sell commodities, but they don't own the brands, and don't get to determine whether, when, or where those brands are sold elsewhere.That should be an agreement determined by negotiations between the supplier and the retailer. Same with fighters selling their fights.

The Government does **** things up hand over fist but some level of regulation is important. Laws do not necessarily restrict freedoms; they often create and protect them, too. In the industry we refer to this as positive and negative liberty, and it can get unbelievably complicated extremely quickly. If you don't believe that, then consider the sub-prime crisis Fiasco and the fact that it isn't legal to own slaves. Look, it's just reality that some fighters are going to become superstars while most will never see a grote while getting CTE along for the bargain.There are no industrial relations conditions that can ever prevent this from happening. 

The goal of free markets is to guarantee opportunities. They do not and cannot guarantee outcomes. No market system can do this. This is precisely why every experiment in communism has ultimately failed--disastrously.

The current conditions in MMA violate this fundamental free market principle by essentially limiting the ability of fighters to make the most of their talents, and to generate wealth from those talents as they choose and see fit, to the end of creating greater wealth for what is essentially a company with a complete market dominance.

And as such, I am against this arrangement, and for the Ali act.

* Edited at 02.02.2020, 9:28 PM ET *

"Language is a form of communication--Israel Adesanya."

Zulizani
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02.02.2020 | 8:40 PM ET

I like my Reebok pants. When the deal does get turfed, I'm hoping to buy a bunch more at rock bottom price. 

"You're all my children, I'll discipline you how I feel" Massabruce

ImperatorFishrat
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02.02.2020 | 9:23 PM ET

I had a pair of reebok running shorts with built-in mesh underwear. Freeballed in them to my local IGA only to notice to my horror that I had ripped them in the corner area of the crotch and a piece of my sack was hanging out while standing in line.

Never again.

"Language is a form of communication--Israel Adesanya."

TWJake
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02.02.2020 | 10:47 PM ET

Hopefully the UFC scraps the deal after it ends. I hate the look of the shorts (although they look miles better now than they did in 2015-2016 or whenever the new gear premiered) and feel that fighters can't express themselves through their gear. Preferably the UFC goes back to its NASCAR days of gear (not gonna happen) but, if not that, then hopefully the new company will allow fighters some say in what their trunks look like (justice for Bryce Mitchell and his Camo shorts)

"Frank Mir had a horseshoe up his ass! *Removes Mouthguard* I told him that... a year ago. I pulled that sum***** out... and I beat him over the head with it! *screams*" - Brock Lesnar

Zulizani
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02.03.2020 | 12:15 AM ET

Dude, they super comfy and they outlasted my other training shorts. I'm the kinda guy gives zero fingers about if it looks good, that's for other people to decide and I have no faith in people. 

"You're all my children, I'll discipline you how I feel" Massabruce

DamienHandel420
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02.03.2020 | 12:23 AM ET

@free why are u complaning about wardrorb malfuction are u gay or something, If they'r a a chance to see Amanda Nunes ***** I agree with anything

* Edited at 02.03.2020, 12:28 AM ET *

"me fail english that unpossible"

ImperatorFishrat
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02.03.2020 | 12:39 AM ET

would you wear a pair of pink ones with bag fat hairy ****s printed on the fabric, then?

"Language is a form of communication--Israel Adesanya."

Zulizani
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02.03.2020 | 1:44 AM ET

I'd wear it with a wife beater, sandles and pokemon socks, IDGAF.

Edit. Sandals 

* Edited at 02.03.2020, 1:45 AM ET *

"You're all my children, I'll discipline you how I feel" Massabruce

ImperatorFishrat
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02.03.2020 | 3:03 AM ET

The pair I had were made of some kind of really fine quick-dry material. They were definitely comfortable but not durable. Although most sportswear is like that to be fair.

"Language is a form of communication--Israel Adesanya."

freemoneyforall
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02.03.2020 | 1:36 PM ET

@damien u call me gay then u pick the manliest women on the roster nunez. and say you wanna see her have a wardrobe malfunction. Smarten up boy. 

"R.I.P Hippie"

ImperatorFishrat
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02.03.2020 | 3:45 PM ET

I don't think Nunes is the manliest. Holly holm has pecs and a mustache. Sits with her legs spread on the train.

"Language is a form of communication--Israel Adesanya."

freemoneyforall
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02.03.2020 | 4:05 PM ET

It's a close call ever since cyborg got pushed out. Still though you see my point. All the hotties to choose from and this kid wants to c Nunes have a wardrobe malfunction. 

"R.I.P Hippie"

DamienHandel420
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02.03.2020 | 4:15 PM ET

@free  Don't judge me a man got needs, I love the lesbian and don't tell me u don't watch lesbian ****

"me fail english that unpossible"


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