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Fightweets: Jon Fitch says he 'feels bad for' up-and-coming UFC fighters

Guilherme Cruz

Jon Fitch has never been afraid to speak his mind. So it should be no surprise that the veteran welterweight has a strong opinion on his former employer's new uniform code.

The UFC's exclusive six-year deal with Reebok, which will mandate the apparel company's gear in the Octagon and eliminate the potpourri of logos which have adorned fighters' shorts and t-shirts as long as anyone can remember, has been an immediate positive for fighters like Fitch, he says.

"It's been great for me," Fitch, who competes in World Series of Fighting, told "Already I've heard from companies who are going to be phased out by the UFC who want to take their money and put it in my pockets."

Fitch, who was cut by the UFC early last year after a seven-year run, believes fighters outside the UFC who have already made their name will benefit in the short term, and companies like WSOF and Bellator will benefit in the long run.

"It helps right away if you're a guy with name value, because you're someone these companies looking to sponsor fighters can turn to," said Fitch, who challenges Rousimar Palhares for the WSOF welterweight title in Sacramento on Dec. 12. "And in the long run, I mean, the pay bumps in the UFC are just terrible now. If you're a manager or an agent and you see the contracts they hand out, and no sponsor opportunities, they're going to send their fighters to other organizations. You have a limited window and you have to make your money while you can."

Fitch, who rode an eight-fight winning streak to a UFC welterweight title shot back in 2008, says if he was breaking in today, he wouldn't have made nearly as much money now as he did back then.

"I went on a win streak, so my pay kept going up and up," Fitch said. "Back then, in 2008, when I was fighting someone like Georges St-Pierre, I was making as much as my show money on sponsorships alone. If I came in today under the pay scale they have now, I would have maybe made half as much money as I did then. I feel bad for the guys trying to work their way up the UFC now."

With that, on to another edition of Fightweets.

The UFC's Reebok deal

@ruckeryeah (and several others with similar questions): Is this a good or bad thing for the UFC? The fighters?

There's potential good, potential bad, and potential gray areas. And the qualifier "potential" to all of those means just about everything regarding the deal is "wait and see."

There are, of course, obvious positives to the deal, like the simple prestige of aligning your organization with one of the world's leading sports brands. And with it, getting rid of some of the bottom feeders of the advertising world is addition by subtraction. Imagine the Masters winner going into the green jacket ceremony with a huge Condom Depot logo on his shirt. Or the NFL's Super Bowl-winning coach receiving the Lombardi Trophy while wearing a Dude Wipes hat. If you're a sports entity that wants to be taken seriously, you've got to have some say in quality control in these matters.

Now, will the money fighters make through the Reebok deal match or exceed the money they're losing in sponsorships? Maybe this will work out better for the fighters in the long run. Maybe it won't. Like in other financial matters, the people at the top will do better than the people at the bottom. Beyond that, we simply won't know until the numbers filter in.

The most obvious potential problem area is the idea of pegging fighter pay to media-generated rankings. I believe the UFC has good intentions with their rankings system. But I declined to participate from the get-go simply because I feel the setup was opening a can of worms, regardless of intent, which was validated when Nate Diaz was pulled from the rankings. The vast majority of my reputable colleagues felt the same way, as well, and also passed. And that's simply when the rankings were supposed to be a number on the screen and a talking point. Tying sponsorship pay to rankings is a whole different level of obvious potential problems.

Then, there's the aesthetic matter. We're already hearing from fans that there are too many events, they're all blending together, and it's harder to care about fighters than it used to be. The sport took off nearly a decade ago in part, of course, because of the yeoman efforts of people like Dana White and the Fertittas. But it was the outsized and eccentric personalities, like Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture and B.J. Penn, who helped put the UFC over the top. If they end up dressing everyone up like a junior high school gym class, it's only going to be more difficult for the next generation of stars to stand out.

@DP819: Thoughts on the possibility of brands "steering" fighters to sign/resign with BMMA, WSOF etc for the exposure?

I think Mr. Fitch answered your question for you up at the top of the column. If you're a leading MMA brand like Dethrone, and you've had the UFC shut off to you, what's the next best thing? Getting your gear on to fighters who will command an audience, whether it be a veteran like Fitch, someone with a following like Nick Newell, or any of the handful of Bellator guys who will draw big ratings under the company's new monthly system. Not that this means companies are going to throw huge chunks of money around simply because they're not paying money to the UFC anymore, mind you. But a select group of guys should benefit.

I'm not convinced this is necessarily going to mean that young fighters will choose Bellator or WSOF. The UFC is still rightly perceived as the biggest deal in the industry. The most driven, competitive fighters will want to prove themselves against the best. But if you're a smart, non-UFC promoter, the opportunity is there to present yourself as the companies which are friendly to MMA brands, and every little potential edge counts.

@Auggie85: That happens when the first 'needle mover' (Say Conor) refuses to wear Reebok? Does the ufc release them?

Guess we'll find out when a Diaz brother has his first post-July 1 fight, eh?

What if Schaub wins?

@IXsted: If Brendan Schaub wins Saturday night, is that enough to put him in the top 5 in the HW division?

Not quite top five, but in a thin heavyweight division, it gets him back into the mix. If Schaub beats Browne on Saturday night, I think you'd still have Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, Junior dos Santos, Mark Hunt, Stipe Miocic, and Andrei Arlovski ahead of him. So seven sounds about right, when you also consider Josh Barnett's inactivity (and quick loss to Browne in his last fight), and both Antonio Silva and Roy Nelson's downward trends. Still, considering where Schaub was not all too long ago, that's a pretty solid place to be.


@pinheiroandre: What was Ellenberger thinking right before he was caught on RNC, that he opened his hands??!!

It was a brief mental lapse, one which was just enough for Kelvin Gastelum to pounce and win the fight. Unfortunately for Ellenberger, little brain freezes here and there have been the difference in him coming right up near the top of the welterweight division but never quite getting over the hump. That said, Ellenberger vs. Josh Koscheck at UFC 184 is a great booking, a chance for the winner to get a second lease on UFC life and a clear case that loser should probably go home.


@jonscrazylife: What do you think are the chances Pettis becomes a big star? Seems like he has the raw materials but...

... but he vanishes for huge stretches of time, keeping him from making his big breakthrough with the masses. That's what you were getting at, right? Pettis has a few things going against him: 1. The big one is the injury thing. You can't vanish from the spotlight as often as he had and keep building momentum. 2. He doesn't have an easy personality for fans to embrace. It's not like he comes off as a bad person, but his words sometimes rub people the wrong way. Pettis was unmistakably booed by much of the crowd at the weigh-ins Friday. 3. His gym, Roufusport, currently has a big and well-documented cloud hanging overhead.

That said, otherworldly talent overcomes all. Remember when Anderson Silva had a reputation for being petulant and pouty? It was his transcendent talent in the cage - and a well-timed foil in Chael Sonnen - which turned him into a beloved figure in the long run. Pettis has all the tools to do the same.

The first thing Pettis needs to do is stay active. Give him three solid wins in the next 12 months, and make one or two of them of the spectacular variety, and he'll go a long way toward winning over those fans.

@Been_Grim: If Pettis retains title and McGregor beats Aldo eventual super fight at catch weight?

Well, they don't do catchweights. But I think the idea of Pettis going down or Aldo going up to meet one another is an idea whose ship has sailed for now. Keep in mind it was made back when Aldo had seemed to run out of credible featherweight challengers; and the door seemed slammed to Pettis for a lightweight shot. Nowadays? Pettis has plenty of challenges at lightweight, assuming he gets by Melendez, which I certainly wouldn't call a given. Aldo has either the biggest-money fight of his career waiting in Conor McGregor, or a big rematch with Frankie Edgar. There's simply too much in each guy's immediate future in their divisions to go back to Pettis vs. Aldo.

No more scrums

@sigep422wesg: Can you tell us what caused @danawhite to stop doing "Dana Scrums?"

The official word is that White feels some media outlets have been taking his comments out of context. Left unsaid was that this happened right as they started their weekly "Download" segment on, which allows White to give his side of any week's given stories to an in-house writer. Anyway, from where I sit, the scrum concept was starting to run its course. They could be fun, they were often entertaining, and they produced their share of headlines. But eventually, it got to the point that a few people on the periphery, who wouldn't take the obvious cues from everyone else gathered that it was time to break things up, would pepper White with inanities like "When is the UFC coming to Turkmenistan?" and "Who will be the top seven flyweight challengers in 2023?" and "When are you adding a women's super heavyweight division?" That, I won't miss.

Got a question for a future edition of Fightweets? Go to my Twitter page and send me a tweet.

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