In May, I penned a piece voicing my thoughts on the Reebok deal, and what it may mean for the fighters affected by it. While many on the UFC roster were immediately critical of the AOP, citing decreased sponsorship wages as a cause for concern, the consensus among many of us was that we simply didn’t know enough about it to accurately make a judgement yet. Today our questions were answered, and holy shit was it entertaining.
The show begins with a video of fighters training in non-Reebok gear. See how dumb and prehistoric they look? See? After a short montage we are introduced to Reebok President
Lance Armstrong Matt O'Toole, unable to resist the urge to insert product placement under his sports coat. He waxes poetic about going back to the roots of fitness, living an active lifestyle, and does his best to convince us that the things to come have been a collaboration between company and fighter. It’s worth noting at this juncture that I’ve yet to have one bit of interaction with a single Reebok employee.
After a brief introduction, we are shown UFC President Dana White and Reebok Vice President Todd Krinsky center stage. Following some technical difficulties and a game of microphone hot potato, we’re told more about the importance of the coming transformation, and the motives behind it. The UFC wants to be more like other sports we are told, and who could blame them? Performance, and customization; those are the guiding principles by which Reebok has developed this fight kit. While I have no doubt that the gear and apparel we are given will coincide with the first guiding principle, I’m not so sure about the second. More on that later.
Opinion: UFC+Reebok says a lot about value
The UFC's first batch of official Reebok gear is now out of the gate, for sale, and on parade on their athletes, and the overwhelming thought, from fans and fighters seems to be "Is this the best they could do?"
The implementation of the outfitting policy coincides with UFC International Fight Week, we are reminded; a span of several days where "everything in Las Vegas is UFC." Hyperbole aside, it is very likely that the economy of Las Vegas will be more driven by Zuffa than any other single entity in the weeks to come. We hear a bit about Jose Aldo, the only champion not present at this monumental occasion, as well as whatever that other title fight is that’s happening that night. (Reminder: There is also another UFC event that weekend, dammit. One in which I’m promised the UFC will update their website to reflect all the fights on the card.)
More talking, more talking, then finally: "It’sssss Tiiiiiiime!"
Electronic music, epic sounding voice, buncha different countries being named, fighters walking out. Yo, can someone turn on the damn lights so we can see these freakin’ things?
Ah there we go, the international fight kits finally unveil themselves, placed snugly on the fighters who created them. Wait.. They all look the same? These fighters customized these things, and coincidentally, they all picked the exact same style of shirt? Sweet! Okay, sarcasm and cynicism aside, these are uniforms here, who the hell wasn’t expecting uniformity? Stop nitpicking.
Up next, champion fight kits. Someone at Reebok is a Star Trek fan, eh? Okay, so we’ve got a group of literally the most lethal people on the planet, all on one stage. They’re all in uniform, ready to take on any group of Klingons or whatever other notorious aliens come our way. What could make this stage any more badass?
That’s right, a motherfucking female James Bond villain.
Enter: Corrina Werkle.
"Vowwww, that absolutely looks amazing. Shoo, shoo champions, it’s fucking trainwreck time."
Conor McGregor is first up. There’s a shamrock on his sleeve. Something tells me if Conor truly had designed it himself there would be a gorilla meshed with a tiger meshed with an image of him screaming while holding a glass of whiskey. "Conor, you’re this crazy guy with this crazy move (spoiler alert: crazy move is a kick to the ribs). Tell us how amazing your craziness feels in our amazingly amazing gear." Conor says it feels amazing. Meanwhile, the word "flexibility" is spelled F-L-E-X-I-B-I-L-T-Y in giant print behind them. This interview is boring McGregor, and he decides to play target practice with Werkle’s face. Werkle is having none of it, and kicks him off the stage.
Following McGregor, everyone’s new favorite champion: Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Corrina makes fun of the champion for wanting to wear a hoodie to cover her bandage. I get the feeling Corrina has never seen JJ fight. She asks JJ what happened to her arm, before morphing into Jon Anik and asking JJ to walk us through the play by play. She starts touching JJ’s hips, and we see the champion fight the urge to sprawl and kamehameha Werkle in the face. We hear something about seams, or lack thereof.
Next up is Cain, the fighter least excited to be here. We’re paying tribute to his country, we’re told, the one with the elevation that he notoriously said "ah, fuck it" to. She asks Cain what he is up to. "You know, just lamenting the loss of the most coveted championship belt in Mixed Martial Arts history." Corrina responds with "Wait, you’re not champion anymore? Ah okay, buh-bye now!"
Finally, we’re presented with the female fighter with the most notorious near nip slip in female history, Ronda Rousey. She’s introduced as the woman who won her last fight in 45 seconds. Her last two fights combined didn’t even last that long. Keep your arms close, Corrina. I imagine Werkle will soon be feasting on the soul of whatever poor employee wrote the incorrect number on the teleprompter. At this point I’m praying to whatever effigy is out there that I am not ever face to face with this woman. We see Ronda uncomfortable in the presence of another female for the first time in her life. We’re reminded that us guys have never worn a bra. Roy Nelson stands up in protest, and is quickly blowdarted in the neck by one of Corrina’s henchmen.
The presentation ends abruptly, while the MMA world on Twitter continues to explode. Let’s digest what we just saw.
First, let’s keep in mind before being overly critical that the UFC, nor Reebok, despite being an apparel company, are not in the business of fashion shows. While I assume they hired someone to help with this production, this is all a very fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants experience for everyone involved, which is becoming increasingly apparent.
Second, the fight kit jerseys are $95. While many have been online protesting these outrageous prices, all this does for me is make my other sponsor’s shirts look more reasonably priced.
Third, much has been made about misspellings, and other hilarious errors. Keep in mind there are 500 something fighters on the UFC roster. Mistakes are bound to happen. Conversely, they’ve had over six months to put this whole thing together. Don’t tell us how hard you’ve been working on all of this, show us with correct spelling of our names, please. This is easily rectified in my book: fix the errors, and fire whoever was in charge of proofreading them.
All of that being said, I'm no less optimistic for the future. I don't mind the uniforms one bit, really, and I like the direction the UFC is headed. Do I think the kinks will work themselves out? Yes. Do I think anyone will be paying $95 for a soccer jersey with a UFC fighter’s name on it? No. Was the presentation hilarious? Yes. Is the sky falling because of it? No.
The world turns, unaffected and unbeknownst of the happenings in our tiny little MMA bubble.
At least it gave us something to talk about.