The growing bandwagon of fighters questioning the UFC’s sponsorship deal with Reebok now includes two more high profile stars in featherweight champion Jose Aldo and former lightweight title challenger Gilbert Melendez.
Aldo offered perhaps the most outspoken opinion of the deal so far during an interview with Combate in his native Brazil yesterday.
“First of all, it’s s**t,” Aldo stated bluntly. “Everybody has been talking about it. We, athletes, are losing a lot. They said we would be like NBA or NFL athlete, but that doesn’t apply, because we are not paid monthly like they are. It doesn’t matter how much we will be paid, all athletes who had sponsors are losing money.
“That’s a huge setback for us. We live for each fight, we have to keep fighting and nobody fights more than three times a year. Not a champion, anyway. Even the value they measured doesn’t match what our sponsors were paying us. That is great for the UFC, but not for the fighters. I see a lot of athletes losing too much.”
Aldo went as far as to suggest that the fighters should form there own union in order to fight back against situations like this that don’t always appear to be in their own best interests.
“If we had a union for fighters, and we were all together, like in the NBA, this would’ve been different, but fighters are not united.”
Meanwhile, Gilbert Melendez has also voiced his concerns regarding the deal in an interview with MMAJunkie Radio.
“[Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta], they’ve done a lot for this sport, and they’re smart men,” Melendez said, “so I have faith that they have an ultimate big game plan, and hopefully, this is better for the sport and yada yada yada – all that stuff.
“But with that said, it has the potential to hurt my pocketbook for sure.”
As a successful fighter who’s paid his dues over the years and now has a lucrative UFC contract and successful gym, Melendez is better equipped than most to deal with the drop in his sponsorship earnings, but if he had to do it all over again in the current climate he wonders if he would have made it this far.
“I don’t think, without sponsors, I’d be where I’m at today. I would have had to throw in the towel and get a real job, and I think some fighters are going to have to do that.”
Not everyone is upset with the financial aspect of the new deal though, with former flyweight title contender Joseph Benavidez being one of the few who’s actually spoke out in favor of it.
“”Oh, well two aspects; for me the numbers are great because I’m a veteran and because I wasn’t getting any money for sponsorships before,” Benavidez told Submission Radio. “Like I’m in the 15 grand sponsorship tier I think for two more fights. And I don’t remember the last fight where I got 15 grand in sponsorships in a fight. And I don’t know if that’s the sponsors I was getting, or the managers I had or whatever. Because I was surprised when other people who weren’t as highly ranked as me or maybe as popular, saying “oh I got way more and that’s not going to cut it. I was getting this much more for fighting”. It was surprising.”
Nonetheless, even he recongizes that the deal isn’t in everyone’s best interests.
“I know that’s not going to work for a big percentage of the guys. For a small percentage of the guys it’s going to work financially, and I’m one of them. So I can’t complain about that.”