As if Reebok didn't have enough bad press, it would appear that legendary Croatian fighter Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic will be forced to abandon his trademark shorts and accept the generic fight kit provided by the multinational company.
Why? Because apparently it was too difficult for Reebok to print the checkered logo on Cro Cop's shorts. The Pride FC veteran explained the situation in a (Google translated) interview with a Croatian website (h/t to /r/mma/):
"The shorts are overall okay. I understand the job and business, and I understand that now everyone will have to fight in these Reebok shorts with their name. I tried to see if the uniform could incorporate some of my essential elements such as the boxes that I always wear. I was in constant contact with people from the UFC, but in the end it was not realized. They were very correct and patient, but in the end they failed to explain why I can not have a chessboard on my shorts. I do not understand who would mind? Their attitude is that all fighters could ask for something specific. I'll have to accept this because I perform for this promotion. I do not like this, since the checkerboard has been my trademark shorts since my first fight. They promised to put a large Croatian coat of arms on my sweats and that after the match will be able to have a flag in a cage. You do not have that much choice: either accept or you can't fight. "
Oi vey. Reebok seems to have run from one problem to another since becoming the UFC's exclusive sponsor earlier this year. Whether it's spelling the names of fighters wrong, generating miserable payouts for veteran fighters, or just plain failing to grasp the concept of geopolitics, it would seem Reebok has yet to strike the right chord with this UFC deal.
To make matters worse, it would appear that all other mistakes notwithstanding the quality of the fight kit is just not up to snuff. Cro Cop elaborates:
"When we talk about the equipment, I have to be a little critical of Reebok. I got some test samples and the quality is very bad. Tracksuits to this day have not managed to buckle. Now everything is in the closet and I did not once put on. The layout is nice, material is nice, but maybe you should work on quality. I hope for the foreign media conveys this interview and lets Reebok read intended criticism and a little work on quality. "
Although Reebok has already tried to strike back against the negative publicity of low fighter pay by pointing out the UFC distributes the checks, it's hard to debate they're not responsible for the quality of the gear they're producing.
The deal has already led to one prominent fighter leaving for greener (or "fighter friendly") pastures, while another one retired (or went on sabbatical) because he didn't want to wear the "terrible" uniforms.
Frankly, while it doesn't affect this writer one way or another, I find the uniforms too... well, uniformly similar to one another, making it difficult to tell fighters apart at times. One of my favorite things about MMA when I got into the sport was seeing distinct and quirky fight gear like Cro Cop's shorts.
What do you think? Is this another Reebok failure or are we making much ado about nothing?