UFC commentator Joe Rogan engaged two guests on his podcast recently, Chris and Mark Bell, two powerlifters and fitness entrepreneurs. The trio were discussing the current state of the UFC, almost exclusively praising it and the UFC management who "created an industry."
This, however, turned the conversation toward the UFC fighter uniforms and the sponsorship deal the UFC put into effect with Reebok last month. "They have some points. I'm on the fighters' side when it comes to that," Rogan said, referring to complaints largely related to the amount of sponsor payments. "They lose too much money."
Ultimately, Rogan conceded he is business inclined and could not be trusted to do with the UFC what those who already run the UFC have done themselves. The long-time commentator of the UFC also offered praised the prestige of brand association with Reebok, but ultimately expressed concern as it related to fighter pay and welfare, generally. Here are some of his comments and the context in which they were made (the comments begin at the 54:12 mark):
On whether the fighters make more money with Reebok deal:
"I don't think it's true...maybe if the deal changes or if they start making more money, it becomes something bigger than what it is right now.
"Tim Kennedy said it best recently. He said on one Strikeforce card he made more money in sponsorships than Reebok paid out for the entire last UFC card from Brazil. [Editor's note: Kennedy referred to this on Monday's The MMA Hour, but he was talking about UFC Fight Night 73, not UFC 190]. So, all of those people wearing Reebok gear, he made more money from one fight in Strikeforce."
On whether the deal is good for Reebok:
"I don't think it's a good deal for Reebok because I think it gives them a bad name, in some ways. All of these people are complaining about it, like Tim Kennedy complains, Stitch Duran complains gets fired. Lots of fighters are complaining. Brendan Schaub complained, all these different guys complained. That's all negative press towards their brand.
"They're not a person, right? They're a brand. If you associate that brand, you can't fire the head guy and change the brand. The brand's still the brand. Everybody's going to associate that brand with it.
"Is it a big-named brand? Yeah. Is it good to see a big-named brand attached to a sport like the UFC? Yeah, absolutely! But I feel like whenever you're in a situation where the fighters are going to lose money, that's always the number-one concern that people have. Everybody knows the window of opportunity for the fighter is extremely small. They have a few years to make some money. When you take some of that money away from them in favor of prestige; the prestige, which is inarguable. Reebok's a huge brand. It's great to be in business with a big brand, but if it costs fighters money, you can't not see that.
"People aren't going to put blinders on and ignore that. You have to address that."
On how pushback against Reebok can spread, Stitch Duran situation:
"If you bitch about something on Twitter, someone says, 'Holy sh-t! Chris Bell just went off about that!' And then some newspaper gets ahold of it, and then, boom, it goes viral, on Facebook, people re-post it, Tweet it. We live in a different world. So, anytime someone like Stitch gets fired because he said something about, 'Hey, this deal kinda sucks for me because I'm not making as much money,' they fire him. Then all of a sudden, boom, that becomes a way bigger issue than it was just with him saying that. If he just said that and that was it, it would've been a small issue. But him saying that and then getting fired for it, it compounds the issue.
"I'm not a business person. If I was running the UFC, it would've been bankrupt a long f--king time ago, but I think it's real dangerous looking at the bright side of deals like this. I'm like, let's look at the worst-case scenario. What's the worst-case scenario? Everybody's going to hate Reebok. That's the worst-case scenario. People are going to mad at the UFC and mad at Reebok. So, I go, 'Oh, I don't know about that, man.'"
Hat tip: Reddit MMA