Reebok’s $70m exclusive sponsorship agreement with UFC has recently become a source of contention within the sport after a number of athletes were fined for failing to adhere to the brand’s strict apparel regulations.
Three athletes have been fined by the UFC, and 12 others warned, after they were found to have violated the athlete outfitting policy agreement the company has with Reebok.
The organisation’s vice-president of global consumer products, Tracey Bleczinski, confirmed that three fighters will have deductions from their sponsorship payout after "knowingly and seriously" violating the guidelines.
Athletes are issued a warning for infringing on the regulations which state that they must wear the official Reebok apparel at media appearance during fight weekends. They are given the opportunity to correct any infringements and are only fined for refusing to do so.
The recent stance from some UFC employees suggests a deliberate protest against the brand which has been a source of contention amongst some fighters who claim they are losing money because of Reebok.
The exclusivity of the agreement prohibits athletes from advertising any of their own sponsors during weigh-ins and competition. Some top performers in the sport have revealed that they lose as much $70,000 per fight as a result of the shut-out.
The UFC has not named the employees in question but some fighters have publicly confirmed that they have been fined for the violations and the nature of the disclosure is damaging to Reebok given the popularity of said athletes in the sport. Fan favourite and lightweight contender, Nate Diaz, recently took to Twitter to say: “you should've just kept the whole check. I don't need that baby ass shit anyway”
Those were #reebokjeans u should've just kept the whole check I don't need that baby ass shit anyway .. #1000
— Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) January 10, 2016
While the fines have been issued by the UFC and not Reebok, the backlash from some of the biggest stars in the sport illustrates a degree of contempt towards the company and is damaging to its brand image.
Reebok's six-year deal with the UFC, which made them the sole supplier of uniforms, began in July 2015 and has impacted on the payment structure for fighters.