Jones clothing deal could be sign of future
April 19, 2012
Interesting news came out last week when it was announced that Jon Jones would be wearing UFC branded gear for his fight this Saturday night. The UFC tells the USA Today that there will be more fighters wearing UFC gear in the octagon.
Jones’s former sponsor, Form Athletics, went under, leaving Jones available to any sponsor. While there was speculation that Nike may be a sponsor (and still may in the future), Jones will sport UFC-branded gear which is already for sale on the UFC.com web site.
Lorenzo Fertitta spoke to USA Today (via MMA Junkie):
To give you a little bit of background, I was going through the process of renegotiating with Jon and his management team on his fight contract. One of the things they brought up was that Jon was at a point where he didn’t necessarily want to sign contracts with some of these smaller, what I’ll call, T-shirt companies that you historically see in UFC, whether it be Tapout or MMA Elite or any of these other guys.
His aspirations (were) that he wanted to be signed by a Nike or an Adidas or an Under Armour, somebody like that. The reality is, those opportunities don’t present themselves to Jon right now, and that’s why I suggested, “Hey look, we’ve got this performance line of gear. Let us send it to you. You can test it. You can try it out. If you like it, then you can wear it in your next couple of fights.”
Fertitta added that the deal with Jones is non-exclusive so he’d be able to sign with another company if the opportunity presented itself.
This is an interesting development for the UFC as no fighter this high profile has worn UFC profile gear. In recent memory, Gilbert Yvel (in his last UFC fight before being let go) and Tiequan Zhang wore UFC apparel in their fights. The article indicates Urijah Faber, Clay Guida and Phil Davis among others that have worn UFC gear but not necessarily during fights.
From another perspective, what becomes of the UFC sponsorship fee? It would seem that the UFC sponsored clothing deals would negate any gains from the fees. Is the UFC inching out sponsors to own the clothing business? Or, will a Nike or Under Armour partner with the UFC to become an official sponsor? Thus, we may see something like the NFL or NBA with an official clothing sponsor. Or, does this seem like a move to the WWE merchandise model–will we see no other fighter sponsors aside from the UFC? It could mean that all sponsorship opportunities would be filtered through the UFC.
As for the Jones deal, was it smart for him to take the deal with the UFC rather than with another apparel company/sponsor? It’s likely that Jones may have left money on the table to perhaps appease the UFC. While his aspirations are Nike or Adidas, it wasn’t in the cards this time around. But, he may have made more money with a “one-off” deal with other sponsors.
As an aside, the media gets another “uneducated” shout out as the UFC tries to clarify for us that despite only one of the two fighters is represented by the UFC in the main event, it does not show favoritism to the UFC sponsored fighter. This is in response to those claiming that the UFC is favoring Jones in the fight due to this new deal.