What Does Georges St. Pierre's Gatorade Deal Mean for Mixed Martial Arts?

Jordan-gatorade-dunk-contest-ad-1_mediumJosh Gross opines:

You can take the news as one more sign of MMA's growth, especially in fight-crazy Canada. While Gatorade owns North American rights to run the spots, for now the company is scheduled to air them only north of the border. If the ads, which include some of the biggest icons in sport, get shown in the U.S., it'll certainly be a boost to the 27-year-old St. Pierre, the UFC and to MMA, in general.

Looking at the big picture, I take this to mean elite fighters can -- and are beginning to -- transcend the sport (including the UFC) to a place where they'll be recognizable to mainstream audiences. For purposes of negotiation, this can be incredibly powerful, and it will be interesting to see how, and if, sponsorships like this can propel fighter popularity and purses.

That said, St. Pierre won't capitalize any time soon. He signed an eight-fight extension with the UFC prior to stopping B.J. Penn at UFC 94.

There are potential liabilities, too: if the UFC continues to hold the most coveted and only meaningful outlet (as far as blue chip sponsors are concerned, though with Strikeforce to Showtime this potentially changes matters), will fighters with major sponsorships be compelled into working and staying with the UFC for exposure and promotion? A fighter with a Nike sponsorship (unlikely, I know) does have increased leverage at the negotiation table, but it does not necessarily insulate one from removal from the UFC should that fighter be forced out either by failed negotiations or by disciplinary removal. Yes, there are always commercials and sponsorship promotion, but the UFC machine's backing matters: how valuable is a blue chip sponsor if no one sees you hawk their product?

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