In December 2014, the UFC announced its partnership with sports brand giant Reebok. This meant that fighters were no longer allowed to wear any other apparel from their respective sponsors.
Fighters, in turn, have lost a huge amount coming from their sponsorship earnings. Former women’s bantamweight champion and now retired fighter Miesha Tate revealed she had to give up 80-90% of her income, which were coming from her sponsor deals. Former UFC middleweight turned Bellator fighter Gegard Mousasi echoes this sentiment, saying he was making 4 or 5 times less.
Watching it all unfold in the sidelines is Bellator CEO Scott Coker. Coker has been competing with the UFC since he held the same position for Strikeforce before the company was bought out, but this time, he feels the world’s most prominent MMA promotion company is at a more vulnerable state because of the said deal with Reebok.
“The Reebok deal is not healthy,” Coker told Ozy.com. “Telling [the fighters] what to wear, what they can put on? No. We’re happy for our fighters to make money by fighting here.”
To his credit, Bellator is slowly closing in on the UFC in this rivalry of MMA promotions. Many of the UFC top fighters such as Mousasi, Rory MacDonald, and Lorenz Larkin among others, have jumped ship to Coker’s company. And for him, not having the UFC monopolize the industry is actually more beneficial.
“Look, we’ve got a great free agent roster, we’re selling out of 80 percent of the places we’re doing fights,” Coker said. “But you know, the reality is if there are not at least two buyers, it’s not a healthy industry. So we’re glad to be making the industry healthier.”
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