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MMA Sponsorship - Part 1

The "S" word has become the bane of many a businessman in the MMA Industry because like no other the sport of Mixed Martial Arts believes itself to be constantly worthy of disproportionate endorsements from every corner of the business world. Top athletes will always attract companies looking to promote their products so we would expect the superstars of the sport such as Anderson Silva, Mauricio Rua, Uriah Faber, Mike Bisping and others to be well utilized by companies to promote their products with a supporting cast of many seasoned professionals with excellent profiles such as UK Stars Ross Pearson or Andy Ogle alongside their international colleagues who fill the ranks of the UFC. What many people miss in the lower rungs of the MMA world is how hard these guys work for their sponsorship and how the industry is changing; it is history that points to why the lower ranks of MMA as opposed to say Cycling, Tennis or Triathletes have such an obsession with sponsorship. Ten years ago the Mixed Martial Arts industry was very much a new thing especially in the UK and Europe, nowadays everyone knows a "Cage Fighter" back then all the MMA Guys in the UK on the circuit pretty much knew each other, the scene was so small that you would see the same faces at the few events that existed round the country, UK MMA Pioneers such as Mark Weir, Mike Bisping, Dan Hardy, Dave Elliot, Paul Jenkins, Paul Sutherland, Paul McVeigh and others were all regular faces at events such as Ultimate Combat, Cagewarriors, Extreme Combat, FX3 and Cage Rage. At this time the only UK guy who had reached the heady heights of the UFC was Ian Freeman. In 2004 I was working for a little known company called Evolution Fightwear, at the time there was Tapout and Sprawl in the USA, the original Brazilian Badboy (who drifted in and out of the scene and were involved more in Motocross and surfing!) and a few very small Brazilian brands such as Red Nose, HDB (later WAND) and several Brazilian Kimono makers such as Atama. In short the scene was small and the industry still in its earliest days. Equipment for MMA was scarce and made only by a few companies usually from other sports Ouano (Kimonos), Fairtex (Muay Thai) and Lonsdale (Boxing) it was the wild west and seen by many as a potential gold mine. This later probably proved to be true although maybe not quite as everyone thought it may pan out. There were fighters who are now absolute mega stars wearing Evolution tops for the sheer fact it was a free T shirt and when Anderson Silva walked out on Cage Rage 8 with the now historic Evolution Tee shirt maybe it seems absurd of how much that would cost a company now for a fighter of Anderson's stature to walk out on the UFC wearing that logo! So now where are we? Every fighter in MMA seems to believe he's worthy of an endorsement wherever he stands in the sport and is surprisingly reluctant to do a great deal more than wear/use the freebies he's asking for in return whilst we have seen top UK professionals such as Ross Pearson, Andy Ogle & Jimi Manuwa work incredibly hard for the support given. Professional management teams such as Alchemy, Elite and Paradigm on both sides of the Atlantic are excellent at making sure their fighters deliver for the brands that endorse them with professional managers such as Lex McMahon (pictured above) calling the shots behind the lime light of the cage. In Part 2 we will look at the role of the management teams and how up and coming fighters should approach companies for sponsorship in a way that might get them what they need to climb the ladder.

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