If you like the shirt Dan Henderson wears to the cage when he takes on Mauricio "Shogun" Rua on March 23 in Natal, Brazil, in a rematch of arguably the greatest fight in UFC history, you can thank a Marine in Oklahoma.
Henderson's manager, Brad Marks of Blue Five Media, came up with the idea to hold a contest and let fans design Henderson's walkout shirt. He created an e-commerce store on Henderson's Facebook fan page where Henderson could sell the apparel.
It was a win-win situation. Sponsorship dollars aren't plentiful in mixed martial arts these days, and rather than search for new companies who may not be able or may not want to pay the UFC's sponsorship tax, Marks thought of having the fighter wear his own design to the cage.
"People nowadays like the fighters and they wear a shirt to identify with that particular fighter," said Marks, once an agent at the William Morris Agency. "They identify with the fighters and not with a particular brand of apparel as far as the walkout [t-shirts] go. So, with all that being said, this has been fairly lucrative.
"We launched last week and it's made more money than he would have made by doing a little deal with somebody."
Marks and Henderson decided to hold a contest and give fans an opportunity to design the shirt he would wear for the Rua fight. More than 300 entries were received, and Henderson picked one designed by Robert Davis, a Marine from Oklahoma.
Henderson said he liked the idea when Marks pitched it and said he didn't worry about making money off of it.
"The sponsorship money that was being offered wasn't great anyway, but this seemed like a pretty good idea and a way to get the fans involved," he said. "When I looked at the other deals and the amount of money that was there, I said, 'You know what, I'd rather have the fans do this and have some fun with it. I don't need to make a lot of money off of it.' We'll sell it, but as I said, the point isn't money.
"I'd rather have the fans get involved and do it and give me some choices so I could pick one and then have the control over what I wore rather than going through all of that other stuff [related to doing sponsorship deals]."
Two other shirts that Henderson liked from the fan designs are also for sale in his online store.