SBD/Issue 200/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

UFC Seeking To Limit Branding On Fighters, Appearances In EA Game

Companies Reportedly Required To Pay UFC
$100,000 To Feature Brands On Fighters
MMA fighters are trying to determine how two recent announcements by UFC parent company Zuffa "could impact their immediate fortunes," according to Josh Gross of SI.com. Zuffa in the past month decided that companies "would be required to pay a $100,000 licensing fee directly to the UFC for the right to feature their brand on fighters." The move comes after discussions intensified "regarding companies such as Full Tilt Poker gaining less-than-cost advertising access for live UFC productions." Sources said that the UFC "wants its share, which it believes it earned by providing the platform for fighters to make significant sponsorship dollars." The policy does not restrict fighters from "signing deals with sponsors that would put them in television, radio or print spots," but any deal "involving an appearance during a UFC-produced event without the mandated licensing fee is verboten as of now." An MMA agent said that the decision could cost fighters 35-40% of "sponsor-generated revenue." A source added that one UFC competitor "could miss out on as much as $300,000 in guaranteed funds after two deals fell through following word of the UFC licensing requirement." A manager added that the move "appears to be another test of the 'conditions' athletes in the company are willing to work under."

TIME TO PLAY THE GAME: Meanwhile, Gross reported the UFC's "attempt to make it difficult, if not impossible, for fighters to sign a licensing agreement" with EA Sports to appear in the company's upcoming MMA videogame was "causing a stir over the weekend." UFC President Dana White is "said to be adamant that aligning with EA is no different than declaring war on the UFC and its wildly successful THQ-produced UFC 2009 Undisputed." Former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture is "believed to be the only fighter currently under contract to Zuffa who will appear in the EA version," as he "managed to ink an exclusive deal during his 11-month courtroom fight with the UFC." Couture, who is expected to be on the cover of EA Sports' game when it is released next year, said that he "attempted to bring both sides together after falling back in favor with the UFC, but a compromise placing UFC fighters in the EA game never materialized" (SI.com, 7/6).

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