Combat Press 2015 MMA Awards: Biggest Story of the Year – The UFC’s Reebok Experience

Kyle Symes Staff Writer

It’s the holiday season, and with the new year quickly approaching, Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2015. Throughout the remainder of the year, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.

Biggest Story of the Year – The UFC’s Reebok Experience

Having a positive outlook is a key to making it through each day. It’s easy to look at the negatives, but in order to keep your head above water, a focus on the good is essential. However, for MMA fans in 2015, the UFC’s deal with apparel company Reebok left little good to focus on.

There were a few good items when it was announced Reebok would become the official apparel sponsor of the UFC. First, fighters would no longer have to deal with chasing down sponsorship opportunities or, worse, hunt down questionable companies over non-payments. It also brought about solidarity to a company that has always looked to push the brand rather than the individual fighter. Building up stars is important, but having those stars recognized as UFC fighters first and foremost is of greater concern to the UFC.


The potential seemed to be limitless in the early discussions. Fighters would be able to sell their own licensed merchandise and reportedly all of the money from the Reebok deal would go to fighters. The topic of fighter pay would seem to have become a non-issue. It was a necessary step for the UFC to continue its move towards becoming a mainstream product.

Unfortunately, the deal fell apart faster than logic at a political debate.

When the payout scale was revealed, fans and fighters alike gasped in shock. Fighters would be paid on a tier scale, with fighters who’ve competed in one to five Zuffa bouts earning $2,500 all the way up to titleholders, who will take home $40,000. It was a modest payout structure to say the least. Reaction from fighters was overwhelmingly negative and stayed that way for much of 2015. Brendan Schaub and former UFC featherweight champion José Aldo became two key figureheads in the backlash of fighters against the Reebok deal.

Once the actual products started to be released, Reebok and the UFC continued to stumble through the early stages of the deal. Numerous gaffs with spelling on fighter kits were comical at first and then troubling as the staggering amount of mix-ups became clear. Some errors took a serious tone, such as Reebok’s completely irresponsible concept for an Ireland shirt. The mistake almost cost the company a deal with Conor McGregor’s coach and camp.

The deal has certainly looked like a train wreck at times in 2015. Growing pains are to be expected with a deal of this magnitude, but most of the errors made were basic-level tasks that were done by seemingly incompetent people. The company still only has two basic color schemes available to non-champion fighters, both featuring a simple lack and white color scheme. The gear itself has been nothing of note outside of it being considered an official uniform, even though the UFC calls them “kits” to avoid using the term “uniform.” We’ve seen very little from this deal that would lead fans to believe good times are ahead from 2015’s biggest story. But let’s look at it from a positive perspective. There’s only one way to go from here, right?

Other finalists: The Legal Trouble of Jon Jones, UFC/USADA Drug Testing

Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2015 MMA Award winners.