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Joe Lauzon: Toxic attitude toward Reebok sponsorship scared away future interest from Nike and Under Armour

Launch Of The Reebok UFC Fight Kit Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Reebok

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) wanted mixed martial arts (MMA) to be taken seriously, to be viewed as a “real sport” by the mainstream media. The means to that end — or at least one of the first steps — was to standardize athlete outfitting.

Blame this guy.

But the promotion’s one-size-fits-all approach to sponsorships prevented marketable fighters from maximizing their earning capabilities. Not only did that translate to lost dollars, but low morale, as well.

Don't take my word for it.

Not surprisingly, Reebok — named “official sponsor” back in 2015 — took the brunt of the blowback. The sneaker and apparel giant certainly didn’t help its own cause at times (like here and here), but one longtime veteran believes it’s time to stop bellyaching.

UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon talks to The MMA Hour:

“We’ve basically become toxic at this point. There’s no way that Nike, or Under Armour or some other sponsor is going to come in, because, the UFC took the best offer they got, right? Reebok offered the most money. It’s not like Nike came in and was going to give them more money and the UFC went, ‘no, we’re going to go with Reebok instead.’ All these fighters complaining, it’s not going to look good coming down the line. When this deal is over, sponsors are going to be pretty much done as far as fighters go with apparel. They’re going to say ‘oops, you guys ruined it, you guys screwed yourself.’ So my thing is, if you’re more positive about stuff and wear Reebok, Reebok will make some money, and then hopefully Reebok will either renew, or someone else will come in over the top and come up with more money.”

I guess it all depends on who you ask.

The promotion was sold roughly one year after inking its uniform deal with Reebok, which prompted new owners WME-IMG to hold a fighter summit just last month in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sort of an “airing of the grievances.”

Boy, did they get an earful.

Whether or not Lauzon can rally the troops remains to be seen, as does the future of UFC and Reebok.

But there is something to be said for individuality...

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