A long list of companies might stop sponsoring UFC fighters after the Reebok deal is effective in July, and that could benefit fighters from other promotions. Patricio Freire, Bellator’s featherweight champion, is one of them, but he says that he has already benefitted from the UFC’s decisions way before the Reebok deal.
"Pitbull", who won the Bellator 145-pound championship with a unanimous decision win over Pat Curran in September, says that UFC’s "sponsor tax" forced many companies to look at other MMA promotions.
"I already benefit from the UFC’s decision," Freire told MMAFighting.com. "Every company that wants to sponsor a fighter in the UFC has to pay a sponsor tax to get inside the Octagon, and that’s why many fighters in the UFC struggle to get sponsors. In Bellator, we don’t have that."
Many UFC fighters are still trying to understand how the Reebok deal is going to work. "Pitbull", a teammate of UFC bantamweight contender Bethe Correia, still doesn’t know all about the deal, too. However, from what he understands, it was a bad move from the promotion.
"I didn’t understand how it is going to work now. Of course it’s about money, but I think the UFC shot itself in the foot with this deal," he said. "It’s bad for the athletes, especially those who are not Ronda Rousey, Jon Jones or Anderson Silva. The Reebok deal is going to be good for every MMA fighter, except those in the UFC."
Starting a new year with Scott Coker as the new president, Bellator makes its debut on Fox Sports Latin America on Jan. 16 with a featherweight clash between "Pitbull" Freire and former champion Daniel Straus at Bellator 132, and that also helps getting more sponsorship deals in Brazil.
"Bellator is on a different platform this year, moving from Esporte Interativo to Fox Sports in Brazil, so it’s only getting bigger," Freire said. "It’s natural that we will get better sponsors now. Bellator drew more than two million viewers in its last edition in the United States, while the UFC drew something like 900 thousand the same night. It’s going to be competitive.
"Bellator is growing, and will become the best MMA organization in the world. They are not doing as many cards as they used to do before. It was every week before, and now they’ll only do 14 stacked cards this year. It’s going to be like PRIDE. We will have to wait a while for a new show, and it’s going to be a great one. Fans will get excited for every card. They changed the entrance on that last Bellator card in San Diego, and it was exactly like PRIDE. I loved it."