Ryan Bader, the veteran light heavyweight contender who is reportedly departing the UFC for Bellator MMA, lost tens of thousands of dollars every time he fought thanks to the UFC's sponsorship deal with Reebok.
That estimate comes from Bader himself, who has spoken more freely about the UFC ever since the promotion declined to match Bellator's offer for the free agent.
The deal severely restricts fighters' ability to receive non-Reebok sponsorships—a historically significant revenue stream, particularly for more established fighters like Bader:
One thing too which is huge for me is being able to have our own sponsorships. In the UFC before the sponsorship with Reebok, the least I've ever made was $35,000 grand—and I made up to $80,000 a fight—that's a huge amount per fight to be cut. ...I mean, yes, we do get paid on tenure and I was one of the highest tenure guys, and we all know how that works with Reebok, but it's a huge thing to be able to represent your sponsors again.
The Reebok deal prohibits fighters from wearing or otherwise displaying other brands while fighting or participating in official UFC activities. The six-year, $70 million agreement, which took effect in 2015, provides a tiered payment system based on a fighter's UFC longevity.
Bader (22-5) competed 20 times inside the Octagon—a long tenure by any measure. That put Bader at the second-highest rung of the Reebok pay scale, at which fighters receive sponsorship fees of $15,000 per bout.
A former wrestler at Arizona State University, the 33-year-old Bader first rose to prominence in MMA after winning season eight of The Ultimate Fighter in 2008.