Earlier in the year when the UFC first announced their new six year, $70 million uniform sponsorship deal with Reebok which comes into play this July there was some unrest amongst fighters regarding how the money would be distributed amongst the roster.
As part of the deal fighters will no longer be able to seek out their own clothing sponsorship deals for their fights and fight week obligations, but instead the original idea is that they would now be paid via a tiered system based on their current ranking in the promotion, with the money coming directly from the Reebok deal.
Not everyone was happy with that though, with some fighters worried about the fairness of the rankings, while others felt it was unfair that long-term UFC fighters with a big fanbase could potentially be earning less sponsorship money than less experienced fighters who’ve yet to build a name for themselves.
Taking the criticism on-board the Sports Business Journal have stated that the UFC are now scrapping the ranking idea and are now going to dole out the money based on the number of bouts the fighters have had in the promotion and Zuffa’s other former promotions Strikeforce and WEC.
The tiered system will see groupings of 1-5 fights, 6-10 fights, 11-15 fights, 16-20 fights and 21+ fights with the only exception being that title holders and title challengers will get a better share regardless of their experience level.
It’s a move that will be welcomed by the UFC’s veteran campaigners, including Gleison Tibau who’s the most experienced fighter on the roster at this moment in time with 25 fights, while the likes of Michael Bisping and Diego Sanchez would also be in the top tier based on their number of fights.
It doesn’t take long to find flaws in the system though. For instance, should Tibau, an unranked lightweight who’s never been a top draw for the promotion really be at the top of the sponsorship ladder while (if it wasn’t for the fact he’s involved in a title fight next) overnight superstar Conor McGregor would be in the bottom tier with just five fights in the UFC so far?
Also, if they key to a more lucrative sponsorship deal is now simply how many fights you’ve had in the UFC rather than how impressive you’ve looked, how popular you are or how entertaining your style is, could that then have a knock-on effect as to how fighters will approach their fights in the future?
The other big question fighters will have is whether even the most lucrative bands of this new tiered system will be comparable to the level of income they have been able to generate for themselves up until this point.
Only time will tell, but for now there still remains a level of uncertainty about whether this deal will prove to be a success or not the UFC’s fighters.