In December of 2015, the UFC signed a six-year deal with Reebok to act as the sole clothing sponsor for the company, including all of its fighters.
"This will be the biggest non-broadcast partnership that our company has ever signed,” stated UFC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Fertitta of the landmark deal, “so it is significant.”
Not everyone agrees with the significance of the Reebok deal, though. With the new deal in place, that means that fighters would have to forego individual sponsorships. Fighters would no longer be able to sign in-fight clothing agreements and would have to settle for Reebok-provided UFC uniforms.
While the company will receive money from the deal with Reebok, it's been a process determining how much the fighters will see. Logic dictates that whatever their individual cut is, it won't be as much as it was when they could sign their own sponsors.
Fighters like UFC middleweight contender Vitor Belfort draw a strong comparison between the deal and "slavery."
"MMA is a lot closer to entertainment than sport these days. I'm not satisfied with the way the company is handling sponsorship," Belfort told SporTV. "We are pretty much living in slavery. We can't use our own sponsors, they are banned inside the Octagon. We have no properties.
"I don't think it's fair for someone to earn $500 to be elbowed in the face. There has to be a retirement plan, which does not exist now. That's something for the next generation. They need to save their money and invest. They need to know the athlete life will end. All my next fights could be my last. So you should make your dream as if it was your last, too."
Belfort goes on to insist that the deal with Reebok could cost him somewhere in the "millions," though he insists that he enters the Octagon for more than just money.
"I hope I can leave a legacy which fighters can use to raise awareness about a minimum-wage pay. It's a contact sport," said Belfort. "I'm very happy with my career and everything I conquered. I do this because I love it today. I'm still a voice to be heard. I can still help the sport."
(Images via MMAWeekly.com)