UFC president Dana White, at a recent media luncheon, confirmed that the UFC is working on a deal that would require its fighters to wear a standard uniform.
MMAWeekly.com content partner Bleacher Report has sources close to the situation that said “the deal is with a major apparel company.” The uniform would likely encompass fight shorts, walkout shirt and hats, and every fighter in the UFC would wear it. This isn't something that would only be for fighters that have trouble securing sponsors. Even the top dogs of the UFC would be required to wear the uniform.
Bleacher Report's sources also noted that there would be “several spaces on the shorts and shirt” that would be reserved for fighters and managers to sell their own sponsorships. Outside of those spots, however, the uniforms would “consist mostly of UFC-branded product and the brand of the apparel company.”
“It's not as big as everybody makes it out to be,” said White, when asked about the possibility of uniforms that would put the company more in line with other professional sports leagues, in regards to presentation. “[The guys worried about big sponsorship dollars], those are the guys that are making tons of money anyway, and they make big money on sponsorship.
“The lower level guys? They're not making a bunch from sponsorship. We just saw the thing go down with Mac Danzig. He said, ‘I'm done. I don't want to deal with this anymore.'”
In an attempt to make a statement about companies that he said don’t care about fighters, Danzig had forgone sponsorships for his fight at UFC on Fox 9 in December.
“I’m doing everything on my own, and I’m making this statement with this fight, and I’m not having any sponsors other than my gym.” Danzig said at the UFC on Fox 9 pre-fight press conference. “That’s more of a personal thing. Over the years [I've just grown] tired of being a billboard for some of these companies that don’t really have a vested interest in the individual fighter.”
Danzig, who also said that he handles his MMA dealings without the use of a manager, said competing in the UFC is the bigger picture.
“They’re just about slapping a logo on your butt and sending you on your way,” Danzig said of companies looking to buy sponsorships. “I’m not going to play that game this time.”
“Do you know how many fighters call me and say they don't want to deal with sponsorships anymore?” White queried. “What can you do? It's not as plentiful as everybody makes it out to be.”
One fighter that disagrees is incoming strawweight Felice Herrig, who enters the UFC with a host of other former Invicta FC fighters. Despite having yet to set foot in the Octagon, Herrig is a widely popular fighter that has built herself into a brand in and of itself, putting a lot of time and effort into doing so. She feels that a standardized uniform would take away from, not help, fighters like her.
“I design and custom make all my weigh-in and fight outfits, so for me this is a very big deal and a very big part of my brand and image,” she wrote on Instagram. ”A lot of fighters like myself get paid more money from sponsors and a lot is based on marketability and mother style I bring to weigh-ins and also the fights. Taking that away takes a lot away from what they are trying to do as far as getting people hooked to [women's MMA].
“It's called business and, regardless of what some people might think, there is a lot more to a fighter's business than just the act of them playing their sport.”
White added that, while a deal is in the offing, the final pieces of the puzzle were not yet in place. He made no mention of how uniforms might add to a fighter's bottom line, or if they would. The details are still “in the works.”
“We're working on it,” he said. “But nothing yet [to announce].”
There's sure to be much more discussion along the way as the UFC moves towards a final approach to uniforms, but it seems more than likely that it will happen. It's more a matter of when and how than if.