The UFC's deal with Reebok is a really big deal... At least, inside the MMA bubble it's a really big deal... Well, it's a big deal if you're a fighter... Maybe not so much for anyone else. That's the message the UFC and Reebok seem to be sending with their product roll-out of their fighter customized UFC Reebok gear.
It's not so much that the new uniforms are ugly (although they are and it doesn't help), but more that they just seem lazy and haphazard. The designs are big and loud, emphasizing the UFC over all else, which isn't surprising. But, it doesn't allow for a lot of design creativity when 75% of your layout is taken up by three letters. Beyond that, the uniforms have been color coded by nationality. The "working with individual fighters to customize their individual kit and colors" mantra that we heard when the idea came out is nowhere to be found. Now fighters are getting the colors of their home country and a national emblem. Well, some of them are anyway, and it's not always quite their home country.
Added to this universal blandness is that names are misspelled and strange designations have been added, like "Matthew 'Matt' Wiman" or "Robert 'Rob' Whiteford." We also get an incredibly hard to predict application of first/last names and nicknames; "Cub" Swanson is now Kevin, but somehow Rony "Jason" passes muster. And the end result is that the whole thing feels cheap and rushed. The idea that one of the UFC's top ranked lightweights has his name spelled "Giblert" nicely sums up just who ends up feeling the brunt of that cheapness, and it's not fans and it's not the UFC and it's not Reebok.
Josh Samman breaks down Reebok unveiling
The UFC announced further details of their Athletic Outfitting Policy today, removing many of the questions surrounding things to come. In this feature article, UFC middleweight Josh Samman does his best to explain what we saw, and the implications of it all.
The UFC has a website with all the names of their fighters (a poorly maintained one, albeit) right there for anyone to use. Nicknames, fan familiar names, all that is right out there in the open, easy work for anyone who knows how to copy/paste. And of course, there are the fighters themselves who could have been contacted and asked what name should go on their shirt, what country, etc. But all that takes time and money and investment. If Reebok isn't spending the time to give fighters the kind of uniforms that they would want to wear, it's probably because the UFC, and a UFC focused product line, aren't worth the extra money.
Essentially, the UFC shopped their fighters as one big package to see what they could get for all of them, together, coupled with the UFC brand. Giblert Melendez was the end result of that. I don't doubt the UFC got the best deal they could, and that they're getting every penny of the quality that deal is worth out of Reebok. But that's just it. If you want a real look at just where the "World's Fastest Growing Sport" stands in the global marketplace, look no further than Jacare "Ronaldo" Souza, Giblert Melendez, and Marcio Lyoto Machida.
Just to throw this out there: Manchester United's ten year Nike deal is said to be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion. Or, about half again as much per year as the UFC is getting over six years. By comparison, the Los Angeles Galaxy (owners of the MLS's largest sponsor deal) are getting $44 million from Herbalife over 10 years, about 1/3 the UFC deal. The MLS itself is on what sources report as a $200 million, 10-year Adidas deal for uniform rights, almost twice as much as the UFC. All of this is to give some sense of context when you hear that the UFC is getting $70 million to outfit their 600-ish athletes for 6 years. Compared to what other teams and leagues around the world get, it's somewhere right between the MLS and the LA Galaxy alone in terms of value.
To get a return on investment for the money Reebok is spending on the UFC, they're probably going to run this program cheap. This isn't the NFL, this isn't soccer, this isn't baseball. There's just not enough money in MMA to get better than Giblert out of it, and that's as damning a statement as ever there could be.