The UFC has dumped quite a few news bits on us in the past few days, presumably to take away some of the spotlight that is shining on Affliction. Though they were all noteworthy -- who wants a membership at the UFC gym? -- the one that stuck out is MMA Junkie's scoop that the UFC is looking to control fighter's sponsors, instead of having the fighters go out and get their own sponsors. If the UFC pursues this, it will be a step too far.
As the system stands now, fighters can be sponsored by whoever they want, though the sponsors need to approved by the UFC. There are ubiquitous sponsors like Zappos, MMA Warehouse and Condom Depot, as well as apparel companies like Warrior Wear and Clinch Gear. But sometimes a fighter has a sponsor that uniquely fits them, like Clay "the Carpenter" Guida, who is sponsored by his former employer, the Chicago Carpenter's Union.
In the proposed system, sponsors will have to go through the UFC to get to the fighter, and the UFC will take a cut of the sponsorship money. This is crap for so many reasons. One, it's outside the way all other sports run. LeBron James wears his Nike shoes during NBA games despite the NBA's deal with Adidas. None of Peyton Manning's 7,651 sponsorship deals were brokered by the NFL.
Also, what will happen if the UFC wants to sign a fighter away from another organization, but he already has sponsors? Will that be one more roadblock that will keep some of the best fighters out of the UFC? Just like any fan, I'd love to see Robbie Lawler, Vitor Belfort and Gegard Mousasi, among many others, in the Octagon. Will a sponsorship clause prevent that from happening?
If the UFC takes a cut, even a small one, of a fighter's sponsorship money, they are taking away a means by which a fighter can support himself. If the purses in the UFC were huge, and the fighters could live and train on that money alone, then this would be fine. Unfortunately, that's not the case, and some fighters are paid as little as $3,000 per fight. When you factor in months of preparation and training, not to mention deductions for insurance, taxes and license, some fighters are barely making above minimum wage. It's the sponsorship dollars that make the difference and allow fighters to train full time, which puts forth a better product for the UFC. Taking away even one dollar from these fighters is just not right, but it's just one more way the UFC can remind their labor who is in charge.