In an attempt to exert even more influence over the flow of marketing dollars into the promotion, the UFC is exploring new ways of controlling the fighter-sponsor relationship.
Traditionally, UFC fighters have been able to cut their own sponsorship deals with companies for the rights to their fight shorts, T-shirts and caps they wear before and after bouts. These agreements, which can often land regional and local companies on fight gear, provide an additional source of revenue to supplement fighters' UFC contracts. The UFC has policed this practice, preventing some sponsorships from happening, but it has not owned the deal-flow process.
However, the days of fighters' managers cutting those deals appear to be ending.
) has learned through an industry source that the UFC is considering a new sponsorship business model, which would require any company interested in sponsoring a fighter to work directly with the UFC. The UFC would negotiate the deal for the fighter and charge the sponsoring company a promotional fee for the right to have its brand on display on fighters in the octagon.
In theory, that new fee could reduce the value of the deal for the fighter, especially since sponsor dollars are going to be in shorter supply in the foreseeable future due to the economic downturn. Hypothetically, if the UFC charges a 15 percent promotional fee, that's 15 percent less revenue from the deal earned by the fighter.
The potential move makes good business sense for the UFC. The promotion wields even tighter control of what companies obtain access to its increasingly global marketing platform, protects its brand and generates additional revenue as a result. At minimum, the impact on fighters is loss of control over sponsors with which they associate. In addition, with the UFC calling the sponsorship shots, the role of fighters' managers is downsized significantly.