Venum to replace Reebok as partner for UFC
The world’s largest MMA promotion, the UFC, today announced that it will be partnering with Venum to produce its uniforms as its deal with Reebok expires in 2021. The original partnership with Reebok began in 2015. Reebok provided both in-cage uniforms and out-of-cage wear, dubbed “fight kits”. According to a statement by UFC President Dana White, Reebok will continue to be the official provider of footwear for the UFC even as Venum becomes the uniform supplier.
Venum, founded in 2006, is a true old-school brand. Before the UFC adopted a uniform policy in 2015, Venum would provide several fighters with their fight shorts. Names as famous as Jose Aldo, Lyoto Machida and Carlos Condit have worn Venum shorts.
Reebok and Venum: Old Mistakes, New Opportunities
Long-standing MMA fans will recall the initial difficulties the UFC and Reebok encountered with their partnership. Former Strikeforce Lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez‘s name being spelt as “Giblert Melendez” is likely the most famous. But other errors included “Anderson Aldo”, as well as several mistakes with national symbols. Women’s tops often underwent wardrobe malfunctions mid-fight in the early going as well.
More seriously, the Reebok deal created friction over the lack of freedom for fighters to choose their own sponsors. While fighters are remunerated for wearing Reebok gear, there have always been accusations that the pay is exploitative. UFC ranked bantamweight Sean O’Malley publicly stated that he had only been paid $3000 in royalties out of the $1 million that sales of his merchandise had generated. A major controversy erupted when long-serving cutman “Stitch” Duran was fired for complaining about the effect of the partnership on his income from sponsors.
In a press release it was stated that the new deal will result in “across the board increases [in renumeration] for all athletes”. However, the UFC has not made clear how substantial this increase will be. In addition, it is highly unlikely that fighters will be able to wear their own sponsors once more.
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