It seems that one of the continuing drivers for notable talent testing free agency has been the UFC’s Reebok deal. The stranglehold on sponsorship in the UFC has provided a key bargaining chip for other organizations looking to net notable fighters. Even, it turns out, for fighters who may not end up making as much money right away, without a Reebok contract.
At one point, Rory MacDonald was one of the UFC’s brightest rising stars. Expected by many to shoulder at least some of the legacy of Georges St-Pierre as a top talent from Canada. And while he did rise through the promotion’s ranks, fighting for the welterweight title in 2015, just one year after that title bout, MacDonald fought out his contract with the world’s largest MMA organization and left.
MacDonald took his talents to Bellator where, on May 19th, he’ll make his debut for his new promotional home, against veteran action fighter Paul Daley. Ahead of their bout at Bellator 179, MacDonald made an appearance on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, where he talked about the move, and more notably what it’s meant for his sponsorship opportunities (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“I could have easily went out and got plastered sponsors all over my shorts and banner and stuff and got little sponsors for the fight,” MacDonald said. “But basically what I’m going out there is for long-term, marquee sponsorships that are going to be solid name brands that are going represent me and I represent them well and be a long-term partnership.”
“Give those sponsors big exposure, rather than be clustered and totally packed full of a bunch of different random companies that don’t have any connection to me whatsoever,” MacDonald said. “That’s the strategy, there.”
McDonald also revealed that, despite leaving his UFC contract, Reebok did finish out their individual deal with him, even though his signing to Bellator gave them grounds to drop him if they had chosen to do so. Eventually, MacDonald admitted that he won’t be making as much in sponsorship money for his first Bellator bout, but that hasn’t made him any less happy with the move.
“I’m definitely very happy with what I’m going to be making for my time in Bellator,” he said. “Even if my sponsorships are a little bit down, it’s not a big deal for me. I’m looking at a big upside and I’m very happy with it.”
Bellator 179 takes place at the SSE Arena in London, England, this Friday, May 19th. The event will be headlined by MacDonald’s bout against Daley, with a light heavyweight fight between Liam McGeary and Linton Vassell in the co-main event. The event will be broadcast at 9pm Eastern & Pacific on tape delay in the US.