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Morning Report: Vitor Belfort compares the UFC-Reebok deal to 'slavery'

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UFC middleweight Vitor Belfort says fighters are "pretty much living in slavery" as a result of the UFC's sponsorship deal with Reebok.

Esther Lin

Former UFC champion Vitor Belfort isn't happy with the UFC sponsorship situation.

In late 2014 the UFC struck an exclusive apparel deal with Reebok which then went into effect last year. The deal has been met with significant criticism and the latest to add to that is Vitor Belfort. In an interview with Sportv, (transcribed and translated by Bloody Elbow) Belfort spoke out on the sponsorship deal and on his desire to leave a legacy of awareness to younger fighters:

"MMA is a lot closer to entertainment than sport these days. I'm not satisfied with the way the company is handling sponsorship. We are pretty much living in slavery. We can't use our own sponsors, they are banned inside the Octagon. We have no properties."

The Reebok deal is an exclusive apparel deal with the UFC meaning that none of the fighters in the organization are allowed to wear any non-Reebok sponsors during fights and weigh-ins. While by no means is it slavery, the deal is restrictive and does severely impede the ability of fighters to seek their own sponsors. The primary form of fighter advertising - banners and fight gear - are now no longer permitted to bear non-Reebok sponsors meaning other would-be sponsors aren't inclined to support most fighters.

In exchange for losing these sponsors and the money that comes with them, Reebok and the UFC created a tiered system wherein fighters are payed sponsorship money from Reebok per fight depending on the number of fights that fighter has in the UFC. But many fighters claim that the money from the tiered system is significantly less than they could make were they allowed to seek out their own sponsors.

Belfort isn't the first to speak out against the Reebok deal nor will he be the last; however as a former champion and recent title challenger he may be the most prominent. This prominence is something he wants to leverage to help the next generation of fighters be better compensated for their work, something he hopes will be his legacy in the sport.

"My happiness comes from within. Breaking records is what I do best. I hope I can leave a legacy which fighters can use to raise awareness about a minimum wage pay. It's a contact sport. I don't think it's fair for someone to earn 500 dollars to be elbowed in the face. There has to be a retirement plan, which does not exist now. That's something for the next generation. They need to save their money and invest. They need to know the athlete life will end."

While calling the Reebok deal akin to slavery is hyperbolic (and possibly offensive), the point remains that the unilateral removal of individual sponsorships to the detriment of at least some fighters has been widely vilified. Couple that with the UFC's track record of using its considerable leverage against fighters who speak out and the situation become complicated for current fighters to navigate. By virtue of being both highly visible and nearing the end of his career thus making him relatively insulated from organizational retribution, Belfort may be one of the fighters best suited to fight this battle and engender change. Understanding this, he sees his voice as a way to make one more lasting impression on the world of MMA.

"All my next fights could be my last. So you should make your dream as if it was your last, too. I'm very happy with my career and everything I conquered. I do this because I love it, today. I'm still a voice to be heard. I can still help the sport."

Belfort fights Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in the co-main event of UFC 198 this Saturday in Curitiba, Brazil.

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5 MUST-READ STORIES

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Cyborg on Cyborg. Cyborg's ex-husband believes the UFC does not want her in the organization.

Machida drug test. Gegard Mousasi believes "justice is being served" with regards to Lyoto Machida's USADA issues.

Refreshing. Gilbert Melendez owns his "mistake" and is ready to move past his suspension.

Let's just be friends. Scott Coker addresses Dada 5000's health issues.

Learn something. Luke Thomas breaks down Gunnar Nelson's wrestling and ground work from last weekend.

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EXTRA CREDIT READING

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Prospect. Tristen Critchfield of Sherdog.com talks with BAMMA bantamweight prospect Tom Duquesnoy.

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MEDIA STEW

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I would definitely be thrown off if I was walking to the cage and there were 40,000 of my opponent in the stands.

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All 3 of the Countdowns for 198.

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This is one hell of a scrap from last weekend and the third round is bananas.

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Cowboy wakeboarding.

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Stone Cold Stipe episode being 3:14 is a missed opportunity.

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LISTEN UP

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Recap of the weekend and some talk about the man arrested in the Jordan Parsons hit-and-run.

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Talking about the deaths of Jordan Parsons and Blas Avena.

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TWEETS

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Daily McGregor update.

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Respect.

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Anderson, Vitor, Cyborg, and who else? None of the others have been caught with PEDs as far as I'm aware.

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Something most MMA fans could use.

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Cowboy and Kennedy were big upping each other on Twitter today.

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DL being DL.

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DC-Jones 2 is going to be a good fight.

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Bigfoot goes off here and tells people who have a problem with him to show up to ATT in Florida and he will fight them. He even gives them the address which is kind of against character as Bigfoot is legitimately one of the nicest dudes in MMA.

Muitos pensam por q somos famosos não temos sentimentos nem vontade de as vezes responder algo......Vou ser bem aberto e transparente para muitos brasileiros de merda, por isso q nosso Brasil vive nessa miséria, isso por falta de educação, cultura e antipatriotismo, quero q os invejosos, recalcados por não conseguirem seus objetivos e sucesso na vida, dessa forma sendo mais fácil sentar à bunda na frente de um computador e falar mal dos outros q trabalham duro, por cima de dor, exaustão, cansaço e q por muitas vezes superam doenças para conquistar o seu sucesso. Quero q vcs q apenas falam mal vão tudo para a puta que os pariu, vão sentar em uma macaxeira bem grande e se caso acharem ruim ou ficarem brabos assim como são na frente do computador eu treino de segunda a sábado na academia american top team "5750 FL-7 - Coconut Creek, Florida 33073" esse é o endereço, aparece lá não esqueçam de levar protetor de boca, luva e caneleira.... Obrigado de coração aos q reconhecem o trabalho de um profissional, venho pedir desculpa pelo desabafo e a falta de educação a todos vcs q gostam de MMA ou de qualquer outro esporte e q reconhecem q nem só de vitória sobrevive um atleta profissional, ninguém quer derrota mas nós fazemos um plano e Deus faz outro...

A photo posted by Antonio Silva (@bigfootsilva) on 

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Alexis Davis is apparently back to rolling now.

First day back with the Gi! #flaviomeierbjj #alexisdavismma #bjj #ufc #roadbacktotheoctagon #babygator

A photo posted by Alexis Davis (@alexisdavismma) on 

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FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

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Matt Bessette (18-7-0) vs. Jairo Soares (17-10-0); CES MMA 36, June 10.

Andre Harrison (12-0-0) vs. Deivison Ribeiro (26-9-0, 1 NC); Titan FC 39, June 10.

Kurt Holobaugh (14-4-0) vs. Luciano dos Santos (10-7-0): Titan FC 39, June 10.

Preston Parsons (2-1-0) vs. Ignacio Bahamondes (0-0-0); Titan FC 39, June 10.

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TODAY IN MMA HISTORY

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2002: Murilo Bustamante submitted Matt Lindland twice to defend his middleweight championship in the infamous "double tap" fight at UFC 37. During the fight Lindland tapped out to an armbar and then denied doing so causing referee John McCarthy to restart the bout. Bustamante then secured a guillotine choke which resulted in the finish.

Also on the card, Ivan Salaverry famously defeated Andrei Semenov via punches from the mounted crucifix. Since then many people, including Joe Rogan, refer to this as the "Salaverry position."

2009: Takeshi Inoue defended his Shooto featherweight championship, stopping Rumina Sato with punches at Shooto Tradition Final.

2014: Matt Brown beat down Erick Silva in the main event of UFC Fight Night 40, stopping Silva with punches in the third round.

2015: Stipe Miocic dominated Mark Hunt with a record setting performance in the main event of UFC Fight Night 65. Miocic set the record for number of total strikes landed in a UFC bout with 361 and the largest strike differential in a bout landing his 361 to Hunt's 46.

Birthdays

1972: Former UFC light heavyweight and one of the best nicknames in the MMA, Anthony "The Hippo" Perosh.

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Think I missed a spot? Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.