Before Saturday's big fight, smaller fights brew behind scenes
Not everything related to UFC 100 is about big fights. Big business is also brewing under the surface, which, when it comes to mixed martial arts' most visible promoter, shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
As the anticipated card at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas becomes the focus of the MMA world, some fighters under contract to Zuffa -- and some who aren't -- are trying to determine how two recent announcements could impact their immediate fortunes.
The first, related to event sponsorship, will be felt as early as Saturday. The second, an edict from UFC president
After discussions intensified inside Zuffa regarding companies such as Full Tilt Poker gaining less-than-cost advertising access for live UFC productions -- thus becoming de facto event sponsors by splashing fighters from head to toe with their logo -- the decision came down less than a month ago that sponsors would be required to pay a $100,000 licensing fee directly to the UFC for the right to feature their brand on fighters.
For the UFC, according to sources familiar with the company's thinking, motivations are simple: the promoter wants its share, which it believes it earned by providing the platform for fighters to make significant sponsorship dollars; protection for official sponsors, such as Bud Light and Harley Davidson; additional control over brands gaining exposure to UFC audiences; and to further marginalize MMA agents and managers.
The new policy does nothing to 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.
That decision could cost fighters 35- to 40-percent of their sponsor-generated revenue, according to one veteran MMA agent, which is significant considering the UFC likes to sell the potential of increased sponsorship dollars as a way to augment fighter purses.
Several managers with track records of friendly relations with Zuffa said the potential loss of sponsorship dollars is nearly unjustifiable.
For instance, one top competitor on the card could miss out on as much as $300,000 in guaranteed funds after two deals fell through following word of the UFC licensing requirement, SI.com has learned. While a new sponsorship situation emerged that could be as lucrative, nothing is guaranteed.
As one manager put it, the UFC's latest move appears to be another test of the "conditions" athletes in the company are willing to work under. At this point, fighters continue to surrender, and haven't given Zuffa much reason to pause.
Causing a stir over the weekend were rumors -- now confirmed by SI.com -- of the UFC's attempt to make it difficult, if not impossible, for fighters to sign a licensing agreement that would put their likeness in the recently announced "EA Sports MMA" title, which is set for release next year.
Beginning the week before July 4, UFC matchmaker
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, which sold more than a million copies in its first month. Fighters, from world-class to journeyman, were told the prudent choice was to decline money offers from EA -- deals with fighters on the level of
In Miller's case, potential consequences weren't enough to prevent him from aligning with EA, the middleweight told SI.com. However other fighters, such as
Former five-time UFC champion
For the UFC to stick to its guns, the company would effectively tell
The UFC is partial to signing fighters it sees as willing participants and partners. Why sign and market a mixed martial artist to the point that he's championship caliber in the UFC, while at the same time build that fighter's profile for a rival video game?
That hypothetical thinking, said one source, is what brought White to dispatch Silva.
• Training camps finished the heavy lifting last week and indications are fighters in UFC 100's big three fights are healthy and ready to go. In Las Vegas,
• Another note on Mir: Filming is set to begin Monday and continue throughout fight week on a pilot tentatively called
• If it feels like