A big topic being talked about right now is the idea of the UFC instituting fighter uniforms in the near future with limited sponsor space. Dana White cited some fighters contacting him over the past few years with frustrations about trying to lure in and woo sponsors being one of their least favorite things to do, as well some saying they simply didn’t have the ability to. Somehow the UFC instituting uniforms is going to change all of this by coming up with UFC gear that has a few spots open for sponsor logos, you know, for the ones who actually have a professional manager who does their job!
Before you say it, yes, I know, most professional team sports do indeed have uniforms that fighters wear, so it isn’t at all uncommon in sports. Then again, those sports have been around for a very long time and sponsors come for the league, teams and individual players. Individual players are usually famous enough to warrant appearances in advertisements of all kinds and don’t need to be covered in sponsor gear from head-to-toe on game day as they participate in sports that see them active about once a week for a period of a season. In the UFC sponsorships simply don’t work that way.
A fighter will only fight sometimes two to three times a year, making their public appearances and time in the public eye drastically less than those in team sports. Your average UFC fighter will be on television for maybe half an hour a year, give or take, giving minimal time for them to show off their sponsors and make that sponsor money. Most of their press appearances are on the internet where there isn’t a ton of room to show off sponsors or been seen by a large number of fans. As it is it already seems like a difficult enough way for fighters to make additional money, without the UFC pushing their own brand over the individual fighters.
The idea of the UFC fighter uniform seems almost ridiculous, as it will be UFC branded gear that fighters are to wear to the ring with them. This means shorts, shirts, hats and everything in between. It seems redundant to be wearing stuff with the UFC logo on it while on a UFC broadcast, doesn’t it?
The impact of this is not yet clear, as it could be minor or major, depending on how strict it is and how many “spots” are available for sponsors. If a fighter like Jon Jones isn’t allowed to wear for example a Nike shirt, but instead has to wear a UFC shirt and would then be allowed to put the Nike logo onto that shirt, well, I’m just not sure that would work. Would an iconic brand like Nike want to play second fiddle to the UFC’s own branding? It seems like this could impact fighters at the top of the pay scale the most, as they would be most likely to have the big name sponsors who wish to keep their brand front-and-center, which is different from the Condom Depots and MusclePharms of the world who are used to sharing trunk and t-shirt space on fighters’ gear.
We’ll have to watch this story as it unfolds but for right now it seems like it could cut into a fighter’s ability to land a major sponsor without any real benefit for lower tier fighters, as the UFC isn’t going to be helping them to acquire sponsors, either.