Incoming fighters to the UFC will soon see a bump in Reebok sponsorship earnings.
Tweaks to the UFC’s tiered Reebok sponsorship structure are part of the promotion’s newest policy changes, ESPN reported Friday. Under the new structure, athletes with three or less fights in the UFC will receive a Reebok sponsorship stipend of $3,500 per fight, while athletes with four or five Octagon fights will earn $5,000. Previously, both of those categories were encompassed under one sponsorship tier, which paid out $2,500 in Reebok earnings per fight.
UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein told ESPN that over half of the UFC's roster falls within the two tiers affected by the change.
"This gives the shorter-tenured fighters on our roster an increase," Epstein said. "We felt this was the most impactful, meaningful way to get more money to our athletes."
Presently, Reebok sponsorship earnings in the UFC are dictated by tiers categorized by seniority. ESPN reported no additional changes to the tiered structure, which sees athletes with six to 10 UFC fights earn $5,000, athletes with 11 to 15 fights earn $10,000, athletes with 16 to 20 fights earn $15,000, and athletes with 21 fights and up earn $20,000. Title challengers also earn $30,000, while champions earn $40,000.
The UFC signed a six-year athlete outfitting deal with Reebok in 2015, a deal which effectively put an end to the sponsorship free market in the UFC.
Several high-profile UFC athletes have also received additional sponsorship revenue through additional "kit sponsorships," as Epstein referred to them, such as Monster Energy. ESPN reported that the UFC “hasn't signed as many kit sponsors as they planned,” however Epstein is hopeful that situation changes in 2018.
"We sort of made that bet going into this thing," Epstein said. "We were somewhat successful with [Monster Energy], which is a great example of what we want to do. Yes, they're paying the UFC money as part of an integrated sponsor package, but they're also paying a dozen or more athletes individually. We're hopeful we'll get more of those going forward."
In addition to tweaking its sponsorship tiers, the UFC has enacted further policy changes regarding the promotional obligations of its fighters.
Athletes are now obligated to provide “four days of ‘advance’ media promotions, six hours of ‘fight week’ promotion, and one hour of ‘post-fight’ promotion.” Athletes competing in headlining bouts — main or co-main events — are additionally required to permit the UFC filming access “eight days prior to a fight.” The UFC can also request a “one-day, eight-hour commercial shoot” twice a year for each of its individual athletes.
Notably, the UFC enacted these new policy changes without athlete consent, as fighters in the UFC lack the ability to collectively bargain with the promotion due to the absence of a recognized fighters’ union or association.