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Major Sponsor Anheuser-Busch Warns UFC in Wake of Insensitive Fighter Comments

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In a report in influential marketing and media trade magazine Ad Age, major UFC sponsor Anheuser-Busch said that it would take action against the promotion if it could not halt offensive statements made by its fighters.

The report indicated that the two sides have discussed the issue, and that the UFC has promised to address it.

"We will continue to embrace social media while looking for better ways to stay in front of the issues," UFC told Ad Age. "This includes a mandate for our athletes to attend sensitivity training and a seminar on proper use of social media."

The Anheuser-Busch statement did not offer specifics on any actions they would take in the case of future instances. They also did not specify which incidents led up to the warning, though major fighters like Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Miguel Torres and Forrest Griffin have been among several who have come under fire in recent months for tweets and online videos that have been considered sexist and/or insensitive.

In its statement, Anheuser-Busch said it "embraces diversity and does not condone insensitive and derogatory comments rooted in ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, etc."

The UFC said such incidents were "not reflective of the company or its values."

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Bud Light, originally inked a three-year deal with the UFC in February 2008, and last year, the two sides extended it in a multi-year pact. Bud Light is a presenting sponsor of several major UFC events every year, including its most recent, UFC 145.

The rebuke comes just one week after alcohol industry watchdog Alcohol Justice sent a letter to major shareholders asking them to "vigorously oppose" Anheuser-Busch's sponsorship of the UFC, saying there is "a very tangible risk to the bottom line of dividends and stock price value as well as long term bad press as the relationship of this patently brutal blood sport to predatory marketing of Bud Light to underage youth are played out on the global stage of public opinion."

Anheuser-Busch is one of the top advertisers in the sports space. According to the Ad Age Data Center, it has an annual marketing budget of $1.36 billion.