On April 1, the UFC’s deal with Reebok concluded and a new company rose to the surface - Venum.
In late 2014, the UFC and Reebok struck a deal that ended the former format of allowing individual fighters to use their sponsors’ logos on the fight kits themselves. This shook up the industry and limited fighters to what they could wear and how much they could make.
The system before this let fighters put advertisements on their in-fight clothing. The exclusive deal with Reebok put an end to this and gave every fighter a more uniform look. This centralized the endorsement money, which Reebok then divided between the fighters on a pay scale.
Now, the same general system lives on but with a new brand: Venum.
Venum is a gear and apparel brand specific to the combat sports market. From boxing gloves and shin guards to workout clothes, Venum has everything a fighter could need when it comes to outfitting combat sports.
“As good as the Reebok product was, Venum has taken this up a notch with just the quality of construction [and] the thoughtfulness of how our athletes will use the products,” UFC senior executive vice president Lawrence Epstein told ESPN.
Reebok is a large corporation that encompasses many fields. Venum is exclusive to the combat sports community, so this deal seems to be for quality control and specification to the industry, at least at the surface level.
Along with the actual gear being changed, another bonus is the change to the fighter compensation system.
Instead of the next UFC champion being paid an extra $40,000 in apparel incentives, they will get paid $42,000. The jump may not seem significant, but when it comes to fighter pay, any bump is good.
UFC Champions sit at the highest part of the pay scale, with the incentives descending as the position in the hierarchy does. At the lowest level, fighters who are within their first three fights with the promotion will get $4000, compared to the previous $3500 deal with Reebok.
Along with the pay bump, the decision to go with Venum, according to Epstein, was based primarily on supply fighters with quality gear, with the monetary bump simply being a perk.
“...[W]e’re delivering it to the athletes,” Epstein told ESPN. “This is not a profit center for us. All the value is essentially going to them.”
What fighters wear before fight week has no bearing on this deal. Any fighter can promote brands and sign deals up until fight week, which is when Venum's exclusive gear rights kick in.
So, after this week’s break from UFC fights, fighters will enter the Octagon sporting Venum gear, and a whole new lineup of fan apparel will follow.