To say the exclusive deal between the Ultimate Fighting Championship and very well-established apparel company Reebok did not get off to a great start would be putting it mildly. Very mildly.
From the day the deal was announced in December, it has seemed like the UFC and Reebok cannot catch a break.
First, they announced the pay structure would be decided according to the official UFC rankings. Thankfully, the UFC realized that was a ludicrous proposition and wisely revised the original pay scale plan to a more acceptable, but still flawed, fighter seniority system.
Just when we got a glim of hope that this Reebok thing might actually work and be a great deal for the fighters, the actual numbers were released. Again, to put it very mildly, they weren’t very good. Though some fighters came out and claimed they liked the deal, the overwhelming majority of fighters were not very thrilled to hear the actual numbers. We have seen fighters publicly bash or talk negative about the UFC, but nothing was quite like this situation. What made this different was the amount of fighters who came out against the deal publicly in interviews and social media. Some fighters, in a roundabout way, went as far as to say to their fans not to support Reebok and to buy their official shirts on their websites instead.
But who is that hurting? Reebok only agreed to give the UFC money to be the exclusive apparel during fight week and on fight night. What, how and to whom the UFC dispenses that money is entirely up to the UFC. Reebok is just being dragged into the controversy created by the UFC’s decisions. Reebok’s logo is the one that is visible, but we shouldn’t lose sight of who really controls the money aspect of this deal. Hint: it’s not Reebok.
From then on, it has been a snowball effect that, at this point, has turned into a full-on avalanche. From the kit reveal in New York City to the misspelling of marquee fighter names on the kits themselves, the entire first six to seven months have not been kind to the UFC and Reebok. Amazingly, what seemed to have broken the camel’s back has nothing to do with the fighters themselves.
Through all the negative press and feedback the UFC and Reebok were enduring during these tremulous times, nothing seemed to garner more attention and outcry than the firing of longtime — and apparently very popular — cutman Stitch Duran. Duran, like many did before him, spoke out against the deal and simply stated that the deal was taking money from his pocket. That was reason enough for the UFC to let go of Duran rather quickly after his comments were made public. When the news broke of the UFC parting ways with the man many consider to be the best cutman in the business, the social media world we live in today absolutely erupted.
Once again some of the narrative was lost here. People again were calling for a Reebok boycott and stated they will never buy anything Reebok unless Stitch got his job back. The reaction from fans and fighters was so overbearing, the official Reebok Twitter account came out and distanced the apparel brand from the situation by stating that Reebok has no control over whom the UFC employs. We know the company has no control over how the money gets distributed, so, in essence, all this negativity that has been aimed at Reebok is utterly unjustified.
The one spearheading all this is still the UFC. Unfortunately for Reebok, the company is in the front seat of the car, along for a ride during what has been a very interesting time in the world of MMA.
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