UFC Light Heavyweight champ Jon Jones isn't just going to be representing himself, his hometown and his family at UFC 145 against Rashad Evans, he'll also be representing the UFC as a clotheshorse. That is the UFC will be Jones' official apparel sponsor at the bout.
To my knowledge this is the first time a UFC fighter has entered into an official sponsorship arrangement with the promotion.
"For this fight, I have a goal, I've had a goal of being sponsored by Nike for many, many years. Part of our strategy to try and make that happen one day is to not be a billboard, and not just be sponsored by TapouT one week, and Affliction one week, and then MusclePharm next week, and all these random companies," said Jones to MMA Weekly.
He had been sponsored by Form Athletics but that company went under in late 2011, creating this opportunity. More from Jones about the deal and Rashad Evans' response after the jump:
Jones talking to Damon Martin:
"When Form Athletics went down pretty much every company in the business was looking for an opportunity to work with me, and I was really honored just to be wanted like that. I thought it was really awesome, it was a real honor.
"We came up with a strategy to keep it clean and be sponsored by the UFC itself. I'm glad the UFC wanted to work with me as well, and I think that they trust that I'll never make them look bad. You never have to worry about me with a DWI (driving while under the influence) or doing something crazy.
"I think I'm a good company guy. The UFC asks me to do anything and I always do it, and I never tell them no for anything. I've had to do more marketing than any other fighter because I say no to absolutely nothing. I don't think most champs are like that."
"I think they realized I'm a company guy and they decided to sponsor me. They put in the deal that if any mainstream companies come after this win that they will let me go, and I think that's awesome."
Rashad Evans was on The MMA Hour today and told Ariel Helwani:
"I guess it is what it is," he said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "It seems they got their guy that they're going to get behind, I guess. I can't really say too much about that. I just got to go in there and do what I need to do. I can't really worry about that. I can't really worry about who they favor or who they may like. It doesn't change anything.
"If they're sponsoring him, it may seem that (the UFC is favoring Jones). But you know, honestly, it doesn't matter if they favor him or not. They have guys they want to get behind, so if they want to get behind him, that's on them. It doesn't bother me though."
The most interesting aspect of this story IMO is the fact that Jones isn't quite high profile enough yet to get the blue chip sponsor he'd like to have (something UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre did with Under Armour a while back) and that the UFC is willing to invest in their champion until he is able to land that mega-sponsor.