MMA sponsorship is a rough business. Companies built around MMA branding are notoriously fickle and often operate on tight margins. Add to that that many of these companies depend on fighter sponsorship to gain recognition and new customers and that sponsoring fighters costs money, and you're often left with something of a catch 22. Clothing companies have to spend money on sponsoring fighters in the hopes of attracting new customers to make money which they will spend on sponsoring fighters.
So it's little surprise when one of these MMA associated brands fails. Last year it was Ryu, and now it appears that top Brazilian MMA sponsor Pretorian has hit the skids. Fighters Only had the initial report:
MMA managers were sent a memo from the UFC at the weekend telling them that the brand and its associated logos are no longer permitted to be worn inside the Octagon or during any of a fighter’s official UFC undertakings.
No reasons for the sudden ban was given in the memo. The move is a surprising one as Pretorian has until now forged fairly deep links with the UFC, featuring on the Octagon canvas and corner posts as well as on numerous fighters.
While reasons weren't given in the memo, Dana White spoke about the ban and the reasons behind it at a recent media scrum.
I just didn’t know if we wanted to talk about that publicly. We weren’t stopping Pretorian from anything … um … Pretorian owes us a lot of money. Yeah. They haven’t paid. So that’s the story.
The UFC quite infamously charges a sponsorship tax to companies looking to see their name in the Octagon. That tax operates on a sliding scale, with smaller companies paying less and larger ones really having to splash out. It's hard to say where Pretorian would fall on that continuum, but considering the sums the UFC is used to dealing in "a lot of money" probably means just that.
There have been suggestions that Pretorian has failed to pay fighters as well, although no public complaints have been made. Current UFC fighters sponsored by the brand include Renan Barao, Ronny Markes, Antonio Silva, Johnny Eduardo, and (contract status notwithstanding) Roy Nelson.
For their part Pretorian released the following statement on the end of their relationship with the UFC:
"QWith the growth and expansion of the brand it has become necessary to define a strategy for wider communication and targeting to athletes via diversified events in order to keep the momentum of the sport in the country.
Thus Pretorian will now start a new cycle of investments aiming to democratize and broaden its focus in other combat sports like jiu-jitsu, muay-thai, boxing, karate and other martial arts, base events, athletes of all levels, teams and national academies. (via Fighters Only)