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LOS ANGELES (AP) — UFC fighters will be paid between $2,500 and $40,000 per bout for wearing Reebok gear under the mixed martial arts promotion's new sponsorship deal.
The UFC announced Wednesday that it will pay fighters based on octagon experience in its partnership with Reebok, which signed on late last year to outfit every fighter.
When the deal initially was announced, fighters were expected to be paid based on their place in the UFC's internal rankings, which are created by a media panel. The rankings are a device to promote fights, but have been notoriously inconsistent and subjective.
"We took a lot of information from a lot of fighters, communicating with them, a lot of people in the industry, and ultimately came to the conclusion that compensating the athletes based on tenure was the best way to do it," UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said. "Certainly it's clear-cut, black and white, and cannot be influenced by anyone at all."
Fighters in their first five UFC bouts will receive $2,500, while fighters with six to 10 fights will make $5,000. Fighters in their 11th to 15th fight will make $10,000, and fighters with 16 to 20 bouts will make $15,000. Fighters with 21 bouts or more will be paid $20,000 per fight.
UFC champions will be paid $40,000 for each bout, with challengers making $30,000.
The UFC is attempting to create a unified look in line with other professional sports by requiring its fighters to wear Reebok gear in the cage and at official UFC functions. The promotion decided last year to ban individual in-ring sponsorships in favor of a uniform policy, although the UFC could add an additional sponsor to the kits for events.
Fighters still can sign endorsement deals outside the octagon.
"It's no different than any other sport," UFC President Dana White said. "Lots of guys are sponsored by different brands outside of the NFL, outside of the NBA. It's no different than that. The UFC is just catching up now."
The UFC has promised to give nearly all proceeds from its Reebok deal straight to the fighters, a vow repeated by Fertitta on Wednesday. The deal begins in July and runs through 2020.
"All of the revenue we're receiving from Reebok is being distributed to the fighters," Fertitta said. "The only revenue not included will be used to cover direct operating costs for this program."
MMA fighters and boxers traditionally supplement their income with personal sponsorships, selling space on their fight shorts or displaying a logo on the banner behind them during fight introductions.
But the sponsorship market has faded in recent years, and fighters sometimes struggle to get paid after their bouts.
The UFC hopes to eliminate that drama with its comprehensive deal with Reebok. The promotion has hired an equipment manager with NFL experience to coordinate the worldwide distribution of Reebok products, Fertitta said.
"We believe that the introduction of this outfitting policy is very beneficial for the athletes," Fertitta said. "It's an investment that we're making as a company, and we think that it's going to create long-term value for the athletes, the UFC brand and for the sport. It's going to provide guaranteed income for each athlete for each fight, thus eliminating the burden of acquiring sponsors."
Fighters also will receive 20 to 30 percent of the gross income from sales of their personally branded Reebok apparel. Several prominent fighters have signed individual sponsorship deals with Reebok beyond the uniform deal, including Ronda Rousey, Jon Jones, Conor McGregor and Paige VanZant.
While most fighters have been publicly supportive of the Reebok deal, it has detractors. Outspoken lightweight Nate Diaz has trashed it, while lightweight Myles Jury threw Reebok shoes in a trash can and posted a photo on his Twitter account last week with an inflammatory caption.
White said Jury had "a personal falling-out" with Reebok recently.
"This happened, and we're going to make it right," White said. "We're going to fix it. He can't go out trashing Reebok."
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