Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) entered into an exclusive sponsorship agreement with Reebok earlier this year (details), one that forced every ZUFFA-based mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter to surrender their current sponsors on fight week and wear only this.
As expected, some folks were not happy.
But as more and more fighters started criticizing the deal, most notably UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub (read his rant here), fans started echoing the Reebok hate (sample). Of course, it doesn't help when the sports and apparel brand does stuff like this.
"Some people are going to criticize the deal. They may feel that they lost some sponsorships as part of this apparel deal. The way we look at it is, we're not deciding where the money goes. We're investing into all these different things that relate to MMA and the sport, so we've put a lot of money into the UFC deal, we've put a lot of money into fighters, we've put a lot of money into gyms and trainers and coaches, things like that. But then there comes a decision point, and the UFC decides how the fighters are paid. That's not something we get involved in at all. So I can understand that [Schaub is] looking at us and blaming us because it's a Reebok apparel deal. It's a little misplaced from my standpoint. But at the same time, we have to do what we have to do, and that's focus on making great gear, supporting fighters, getting fighters to showcase as the face of our brand. If we do those things really well, then things will come around."
UFC President Dana White, meanwhile, is circling the bases.
"The backlash to Reebok was ridiculous but everybody thinks they know all about this shit and they have all the answers," White recently told The Telegraph. "But let me tell you, this has been an absolute home run for Reebok. Home run for them."
Expect more Reebok gear to be on display at UFC 194, where a select group of champions will flaunt some of their signature merchandise. Whether or not it looks good is a matter of opinion, but it would be interesting to see the sales numbers over the past few months.
Anyone out there buying UFC Fight Kits?