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Reebok now exclusive outfitter for UFC fighters

UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta, center, announces the UFC's

UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta, center, announces the UFC's new exclusive apparel sponsorship deal with Reebok on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, in Manhattan. UFC president Dana White is on the right, and Reebok president Matt O'Toole. Photo Credit: Newsday/Mark La Monica

Reebok will become the exclusive apparel outfitter for Ultimate Fighting Championship's fighters, both companies announced Tuesday.

Starting in July 2015, all UFC fighters will be wearing Reebok gear during fight week and inside the Octagon.

"Every penny of this money goes to the fighters," UFC president Dana White said. "Everything that sells with their name on it, they get a 20-percent cut on the back end."

White said the six-year deal with Reebok is "the largest non-broadcast we've ever done."

The deal is worth around $70 million, according to a source.

During fight week, fighters will be given Reebok gear to wear at open workouts, news conferences, weigh-ins and inside the Octagon on fight night. Gone will be the appearance of outside sponsors during fight week.

Fighters with their individual sponsorships still can wear those companies' logos and apparel outside of fight week and do paid appearances in such attire -- just not during fight week.

"It's an incentive for them to promote their product, because they're getting cut in on the product, while at the same time, they can keep their current sponsors," UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said.

As part of the deal, all fighters will get paid some money for wearing Reebok apparel. "Champions will get the lion's share," White said.

From there, fighters ranked 1-5 will receive the same amount. Those ranked 6-10 get a set amount, and so on down the line.

"In order for us to do this, we obviously wanted to make sure that we were compensating the fighters similar to what they were making on sponsorships now," Fertitta said. "Is it gonna work? We think so. We hope so. We're willing to take the leap to do this. We think it's for the greater good."

White said all fight cards -- pay-per-views, fight nights on Fox, Fox Sports 1 and Fight Pass -- will be treated equally in terms of money paid to the fighters.

Frankie Edgar, former UFC lightweight champion and top contender now in the featherweight division, said he hasn't seen the actual breakdown of how much fighters will earn from the Reebok deal.

"I know we're gonna walk away with money, so that's a good thing," Edgar said.

Edgar believes this deal will benefit the fighters lower down on the card.

"Those Fight Pass prelim guys, it's tough, it's tough to get them sponsors," Edgar said. "Now there's no guesswork, there's no hustle. They know they're going to get paid at least some money when they fight in the Octagon."

But for a fighter of Edgar's stature -- former champion, established name and commodity -- is this good or bad?

"In the long run, I think it's going to be better," Edgar said. "Like I said, we're going to walk away with money no matter what because we're wearing Reebok in the cage. Then people on the outside are going to pay to wear their stuff outside of the cage. You might be double dipping, you know what I mean?"

White said he called more than 50 of the 560 fighters on the UFC roster and "the response has been very good."

"Every time you step into the Octagon, you get paid," White added.

UFC fighters will have several different choices of shorts to wear in the cage. Fertitta said fighters also will have input into the designs on both a visual and a performance level.

Also going away inside the Octagon will be the sponsor-laden banners a fighter's cornermen unfurl behind a fighter during his introduction.

"It's the one thing that made my stomach hurt every time the guys would get in there, guys get up there, roll down a banner with 1-800-This on it," White said. "I'm so happy to see those go away. I wanted them to go away so bad, but I would never do it if I couldn't supplement the money."

Garry Cook, chief brand officer for the UFC, said there will be "four or five" spots available on a fighter's shorts for sponsors. However, those sponsors would come through the UFC, with fighters getting a cut of the deal. Cook said if a company wanted to buy sponsorship for a particular fighter, they also would have to take space on fighters in other tiers as well. For example, if a company wants to sponsor a champion, they also would have to sponsor fighters in prelim bouts as well.

"It makes things easier for the fighters," UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman of Baldwin said. "You don't have to worry about [getting] sponsors. Everything is clear cut."

Many of the less acclaimed fighters, who are just starting out and trying to work their way up the ladder, depend on sponsor money to get by. Although that won't necessarily go away, this deal figures to decrease the amount of dollars a sponsor may be willing to spend for exposure away from the cage and away from fight week.

Fertitta said the UFC spent around two years researching the monies earned from a fighter's sponsorship. And yes, some of the top fighters do have substantial deals. But not everyone.

"The vast, vast majority of these guys are out there hustling weeks leading up to the fight trying to get a sponsor for $500 or $1,500, and then for the next six to nine months, they're chasing these sponsors down trying to get paid," Fertitta said. "We are continually trying to elevate the level of this sport and create a platform for fighters to continue to make more money."

The deal also applies to "The Ultimate Fighter." Contestants' apparel on the taped episodes will be Reebok branded.

This new deal creates something else for a fighter.

"It helps them in the sense that it's one less thing to stress about, one less thing on their plate," Weidman said. "They can focus more on the fight."


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