Barriers are not always smashed with a sledgehammer. Sometimes they're chiseled away a little at a time.
A case in point is MMA's move to mainstream acceptance, which has occurred in bits and pieces. The latest step forward comes courtesy of welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, who has signed a multi-year endorsement deal with top-selling athletic brand Under Armour.
GSP will serve as the face of the company's underwear line and also be one of a handful of athletes the company uses to push its ColdGear and Recharge lines. He will be featured prominently in Under Armour's upcoming holiday season media campaign, including ads in sporting goods retailers across North America.
"It is quite an honor for me to represent Under Armour," St. Pierre said in a statement announcing the deal. "I have always appreciated the quality of their products, and to be partners with them is a dream come true."
The Under Armour stable of athletes includes NFL stars Ray Lewis and Brandon Jacobs, baseball All-Stars Ryan Zimmerman and Alfonso Soriano, and Olympians Lindsey Vonn and Lindsey Jacobellis, among others.
St. Pierre becomes the second MMA athlete to sign with a mainstream U.S. sporting goods manufacturer. UFC middleweight Nate Quarry inked a deal with And1 in October 2008.
In August, St. Pierre's manager Shari Spencer told FanHouse that she was working on a deal with a "bigger than the sport" company, and Under Armour certainly qualifies, with over $700 million in revenues last year. The company has been one of the fastest growing in its category.
The move could draw the attention of rivals Nike and adidas, both of whom closely monitor the cutting-edge Maryland company.
St. Pierre, who defeated Thiago Alves in his last match, is expected to return to action in early 2010 after recovering from a groin injury. GSP also has an endorsement deal with Gatorade.