This week the UFC announced a 6 year deal designating Reebok as “the exclusive outfitter and apparel provider” for the UFC.
The deal requires Reebok apparel to be worn and prohibits athletes from having “outside sponsor logos on athletic apparel during UFC fight week official events, including fight night, UFC-produced content or other official UFC events.
And individual sponsor banners will no longer be permitted for the walkout or inside the Octagon beginning with the UFC event on July 11, 2015“. In exchange for this fighters are to be compensated based on a formula determined by Zuffa.
Professional fighters had mixed reactions to the announcement. I’ve reviewed a Zuffa fighter contract to determine if a fighter currently under contract can be forced to comply with this requirement. The short answer is probably. Here’s the breakdown.
Zuffa contracts contain standard “entire agreement” provisions meaning that if the contract does not specifically address the above neither side can impose such terms on the other. The clause reads as follows “This Agreement sets forth and integrates the entire understanding between Fighter and ZUFFA, and supersedes any and all prior or contemporaneous written or oral agreements or representations between the parties with respect to the subject matter hereof…This Agreement may not be altered, amended or discharged, except by a subsequent writing signed by the parties hereto“.
In short this means if the fighter did not agree to wear clothing selected by Zuffa, Zuffa cannot force them to do so.
The next question is does the contact contain such a clause? Sort of. The contract reviewed had no clause expressly granting Zuffa the power to dictate an athlete’s apparel, however, the “Fighter Conduct” provision reads as follows:
“Fighter agrees that during a Bout, or while training for a Bout, as well as during any Pre-Bout Events or Post Bout Events, neither Fighter or any of his managers, trainers and assistants shall wear any clothing…which conflicts with a ZUFFA sponsor“.
Any non Reebok brand would likely conflict with this exclusive sponsorship. Arguably a fighter can protest by refusing their share of the Reebok money and wear a no-label brand however even this may run afoul of the above broad language.