Combat Press 2014 MMA Awards: Biggest Story of the Year – UFC and Reebok Join Forces

Bryan Henderson Editor-in-Chief

It’s the holiday season, and with the new year quickly approaching, Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of 2014. Throughout the week, Combat Press will announce its award winners in 16 different categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.

Biggest Story of the Year – UFC and Reebok Join Forces

Affliction. Dethrone. Tapout. Dynamic Fastener.

For years now, companies such as those have become well known through their use of fighter sponsorships. When fans picture an MMA fight, they think of the fighter introductions accompanied by a large banner full of sponsors. When they think of watching the fighters compete, you can be sure they envision a pair of men or women in fighter gear adorned with logos from each of those companies, from the big, bold red lettering of Dynamic Fastener to the iconic TapouT logo.


With such an established norm in the industry, the UFC’s announcement of its Reebok deal shook the MMA world. The deal, which makes Reebok the exclusive provider of fighter equipment and eliminates all other in-cage fighter sponsorships, was easily the biggest story of the year. It redefines not only the appearance of the UFC product, but also fighter pay structures. It also played a vital role in prompting the class-action lawsuit that the UFC now faces.

The UFC’s intent is to associate with major brands to elevate its product to the same level as other major sports leagues such as the NFL. But, in doing so, it has alienated fighters who depend on sponsorships to supplement their income. The announced deal proposes to spread any revenue to the fighters, but it uses a controversial formula involving fighter rankings and percentages of merchandise sales — both of these considerations will potentially put the majority of the money in the hands of the UFC’s top-tier fighters and leave little for the less popular but just as deserving fighters on the fringes of the top 15.

The Reebok deal has prompted a lot of speculation among fighters, fans and the MMA media. Will it put companies out of business en masse? Without knowing dollar figures, the speculation extends to fighter pay and assumes lower-tier fighters will lose out on formerly lucrative sponsorship deals.

With its ability to shake the industry and dominate the news cycle for weeks, the UFC’s Reebok deal earns the Combat Press honor for Biggest Story of the Year. We’ll just have to wait until the deal goes into effect in 2015 before we know whether to congratulate the fighters on their new income stream or mourn the loss of their old one.

Other Finalists: Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against the UFC, UFC Signs “CM Punk”

Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2014 MMA Award winners.