In July 2010, the UFC revealed it was not going to re-up its outfitting deal with Reebok. Instead, the promotion announced that beginning in April 2021, Venum — a respected manufacturer in the combat sports arena — would serve as the UFC outfitting partner.
“Everything in life is about timing, and this Venum deal couldn’t come at a more perfect time,” UFC president Dana White said after the UFC 251 weigh-ins in July 2020. “This weird place we’re in right now, in the entire world, with sports and business and everything going on, these guys were the right people at the right time. It’s so weird how this stuff works out. You see some of the monsters, without saying names, who are trying to pull back deals with sports leagues, this is what Venum does. This is the business Venum is in. I just think the timing on this thing couldn’t have been any better, they’re a great company, they’ve invested in this, and I love it.”
“Joining UFC as their official outfitting and apparel partner means a great deal to the Venum team,” Franck Dupuis, Venum’s Founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Venum is a brand that has grown alongside the sport of MMA as it has exploded in popularity around the world. We are both proud and grateful, as this agreement signifies the success of our journey over the past fifteen years. At Venum, we are ecstatic to write the next chapter in our history.”
Since that announcement and the statements from White and Dupuis, the UFC and Venum have been nearly completely silent on the subject. That’s an enormous concern — especially for the UFC fighters.
The one thing ESPN reported at the time was the Venum deal is shorter and less lucrative than the six-year, $70 million deal the UFC signed with Reebok in 2014. The UFC also said the promotion would “adjust the pay scale tied to its Promotional Guidelines Compliance program, which will result in across the board increases for all athletes effective April 2021.”
The UFC currently uses a tiered pay structure for the fighters under the Reebok outfitting deal. That structure has remained the same since 2017. According to ESPN, the payouts are as follows:
1-3 UFC bouts = $3,500 per appearance
4-5 UFC bouts = $4,000 per appearance
6-10 UFC bouts = $5,000 per appearance
11-15 UFC bouts = $10,000 per appearance
16-20 UFC bouts = $15,000 per appearance
21+ UFC bouts = $20,000 per appearance
UFC title challengers = $30,000 per appearance
UFC champions = $40,000 per appearance
The UFC has not released what the payout structure will be for the Venum deal. The promotion has also not revealed how much the partnership is worth and what the fighters share of that deal will be.
UFC president Dana White previously claimed that the UFC’s fighters were going to receive “all” the money from the Reebok deal.
“These guys are getting all the money from the Reebok deal. I mean, all the money goes to them,” White told TSN in 2015.
The actual amount that has gone to the UFC fighters as the deal nears its end is under $39 million of the reported $70 million.
There’s no doubt the money will be the biggest concern for the UFC fighters, but here are some other questions that have yet to be answered about the deal, which again, will begin in April.
- How will fighters be paid for branded gear (shirts, shorts, etc) and will it be better than the reported pennies on the dollar of the Reebok deal? Sean O’Malley previously reported he was paid just $3,000 on over $1 million in sales.
- Were fighters involved in the planning of the gear they will wear inside and outside the octagon?
- Will the fighters have the option to personalize their own fight kits or will they be stuck with certain colors and designs?
- Will the UFC/Venum allow the fighters to get at least one of their own sponsors on the fight kits so they can make some extra money of their own?
- With the length of the deal, will Venum be willing to invest in research and development and packaging if the company is not going to be able to re-sign with the UFC?
- What’s the UFC’s long-term plan for outfitting and will the promotion get ideas from fighters as to what works best for them?
- Did the UFC consider the fighters at all during the process of vetting and signing with another outfitting company?
- Will the fact that the UFC has a broadcast deal with ESPN be brought into the equation as to how much the UFC/Venum will pay fighters for wearing Venum gear on the “Worldwide Leader in Sports?”
- Will quality control be better with Venum during launch?
No matter how you look at it, there are a lot of questions and very few answers when it comes to the UFC’s deal with Venum and that’s bad for the fighters.
*Bloody Elbow reached out to UFC with the above questions. The promotion did not respond prior to publication.
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