Vitor Belfort Slams UFC Reebok Deal, Says He's Lost Millions

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterMarch 31, 2016

Vitor Belfort
Vitor BelfortAndre Penner/Associated Press

The UFC's deal with apparel giant Reebok has cost Vitor Belfort millions of dollars in sponsorship revenue.

That's according to the fighter himself, who spoke Monday with Guilherme Cruz of MMA Fighting.

"I lost a lot of money. I'm not happy," Belfort said in the interview. "I think there's a lot of change that we have to accomplish in that area, especially now with the way we're building the sport. We're investing a lot of money. I'm investing a lot of money. I lost a lot of money with sponsors."

Under the deal, which took effect in July, fighters under contract with the UFC are only allowed to wear Reebok apparel during fights and all fight-related activities such as weigh-ins. Previously, various companies were allowed to directly compensate fighters for placing logos or other images on fighter apparel, banners or in other areas.

Belfort is not the only fighter to claim lost revenue as a result of the Reebok deal. Matt Mitrione, who recently joined the Bellator MMA promotion, is perhaps the most recent higher-profile athlete to decry the deal. However, Belfort took things a step farther by saying the UFC should adopt a model that's more similar to other sports, like the NBA or the ATP pro tennis tour.

He did not say how, exactly, the UFC should change to resemble those other organizations, but he did say fighters deserved a steadier, not just greater, income stream:

I think it's time for us to come to a conclusion, and I believe the UFC will come to that conclusion that we need to become like an ATP or the NBA. Right now, we cannot wear anything. We don't have any kind of sponsors. The players invest themselves. They need money. They need resources. ... That's why in sports and teams, they have sponsors, in soccer, in the NFL. Everyone has sponsors who invest and help to pay daily expenses.

In a December interview, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said the company earned about $600 million in 2015 and defended the company against claims of low fighter pay in a CNN interview.

Although the UFC does not release official numbers for fighter pay or its own revenue, lower-tier UFC fighters are estimated to take in about $10,000 to fight (with additional pay possible for winning and/or notable performances) and $2,500 from the Reebok deal.

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