2011 Mid-Year UFC Awards: Top 5 Sponsors of the Year

Sean SmithAnalyst IJuly 23, 2011

2011 Mid-Year UFC Awards: Top 5 Sponsors of the Year

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    After a long stretch of major MMA events ended with UFC 132, we are now midway through the calender year.

    As we wait for the MMA schedule to pick back up, Bleacher Report will be taking a look a several different midyear awards.

    This installment will focus on the UFC Sponsor of the Year, which will be handed out to the UFC sponsor who has been the most recognizable and beneficial to the sport in 2011.

    Already, there have been plenty of options for the award, but we had to narrow it down to five nominees.

    Here are the top five UFC sponsors from the first half of 2011.

5. Tequila Cazadores

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    The official spirit of the UFC, Tequila Cazadores has become one of the staple sponsors for the organization over the last year.

    On a regular basis, Tequila Cazadores awards one fighter from major events with the Tequila Cazadores Spirit Award, which includes a $1,000 check to the charity of the fighter's choice.

    The award is voted on by the fans and intended to be given to the fighter who best demonstrates honor and integrity in and outside of the Octagon.

4. Harley Davidson

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    As the UFC has continued to grow, it has begun to pick up more and more reputable sponsors, in addition to its classic MMA-focused sponsors like Affliction and TapouT.

    Harley Davidson, one of the UFC's biggest sponsorship partners, plays extremely well to the young, male demographic that MMA appeals to.

3. Affliction

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    Following in the footsteps of TapouT, Affliction has become one of the most recognizable MMA clothing and equipment companies on the market.

    Say what you will about the individuals who actually wear Affliction gear as casual clothing, but the company has definitely helped to raise the awareness of MMA in the mainstream.

2. TapouT

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    One of the UFC's longest-running sponsors, TapouT is the largest MMA-focused clothing brand in the world.

    While TapouT shirts have become a widespread mark of an uneducated MMA fan, it is undeniable that the company has helped spread recognition of the sport into the mainstream.

    TapouT hit a snag with the UFC in 2010, when they decided to make a deal with Fedor Emelianenko. However, UFC President Dana White strong-armed the company out of that deal with a threat of banning the TapouT logo from the UFC.

    With that conflict now in the past, TapouT's relationship with the UFC has remained strong. TapouT figureheads regularly appear at UFC events.

1. Bud Light

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    Every major sports league needs an exclusive sponsorship with a beer company. For the UFC, that sponsorship is with Bud Light.

    The UFC's relationship with Bud Light has grown rapidly over recent years, and the two companies renewed their sponsorship deal with one another earlier this year.

    Recently, Bud Light has produced a racy commercial for its Bud Light Lime product, which featured Octagon Girl Arianny Celeste. Also, the beer company has released a nationwide commercial promoting its product along with UFC Fight Night 25.

    Sean Smith is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, you can follow Sean on Twitter here.