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Reebok deal 'harmed' Vitor Belfort and cost him millions, reduced fighting career to a 'hobby'

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Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight contender Vitor Belfort is no longer a full-time fighter, but rather a businessman who happens to do some mixed martial arts (MMA) on the side.

He doesn't have much choice.

That's according to his wife and business manager, Joana Prado, who told ESPN (via Bloody Elbow) "The Phenom" lost millions of dollars when UFC decided to align with clothing and apparel giant Reebok, because it eliminated any and all outside sponsorships.

"As a business woman, I understand why 9ine cut ties with the UFC. Vitor has lost millions for years because of the new sponsorship policy. Thank God he is an athlete whose reach goes beyond the cage and he has other businesses. Fighting has become a hobby, but he was harmed much like the other fighters with this new business model. We have a great relationship with Ronaldo (9ine's owner) and all the 9ine crew. We wish them success."

Reebok insists the blame is misplaced.

9ine Sports & Entertainment, owned by retired soccer star Ronaldo Nazario de Lima, cut ties with UFC earlier this week because of the way athletes were being "unfairly treated."

Belfort, fresh off his knockout win over Dan Henderson last weekend in Brazil (watch it), is the latest high-profile fighter to speak out against the Reebok deal, which guarantees every fighter a cut of the sponsorship pie. Unfortunately, said cut is typically smaller than what was being offered before the change in payouts.

See what all the fuss is about right here.