For the UFC, How Costly Is the Image of Sponsorship?

Ultimate_fighting_championship_ufc_medium Personally, I'm for virtually anything that drives out the carnie, low rent element of MMA. If one takes the notion of becoming part of the larger sporting community and conversation seriously, jettisoning positively sub-proletariat hobbyists from the mix is a must. Certainly not every business affected by the UFC's alleged decision to charge potential sponsors $100,000 for the right to advertise on its fighters belongs to this demographic, but let's be serious: the overlap is obvious.

I've yet to be blown over by the idea that except for the short run, this move by the UFC truly damages the fighters' ability to earn income. But is it pragmatic for the UFC's bottom line and is it prudent decision making? Jake Rossen asks an excellent question:

Less disturbing, but possibly more short-sighted, is the allegation that the UFC will now "tax" sponsors a blanket $100,000 fee for six months’ privilege of endorsing fighters. As brass would likely argue, it’s the event -- not the athlete -- that creates the exposure that makes sponsorships worthwhile. Since that audience is owed to the UFC’s infrastructure, a tithing is apparently mandatory.

For brands paying out hundreds of thousands to top-level athletes, this makes some sense. But if that blanket $100,000 fee applies to undercard laborers, the UFC is cutting off its own feet. Mid-tier fighters that struggle to make $15,000 or $20,000 a fight see this as a soluble career because sponsor money makes training, living and eating realistic. The UFC has built an arena that allows advertisers to subsidize income, which effectively lowers their bottom line: They actually have third parties paying their employees and offsetting costs. Isn’t that enough?

A better question for the UFC: Is it ever enough?

Hardball. That's all the UFC knows. I'm largely sympathetic to their decision here to institute the fee, but the UFC won't be in this advantageous a position permanently. For their sake, I hope they've got some reliable friends and partners lined up. They're going to need them when circumstances change. And they will.

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