Some MMA fighters are able to survive between fights because of the money they make from sponsorship and endorsement deals. A lower card fighter can make from $2,000-10,000 in sponsorship money per fight, a mid-card fighter can make an additional $10,000-20,000 per fight, and a main event fighter/champion can make anywhere from $20,000 to $1,000,000+ from sponsorships on a per fight or multi-fight endorsement deal. These sponsorships enable fighters to pay their training camp, monthly bills, and other expenses. In some cases, it is the difference between having to maintain a 9-5 job and becoming a gfull-timeh fighter.
There are a few things fighters should know, though, prior to signing a sponsorship or endorsement deal:
- Know your value
Many lower to mid-card fighters who train with main event fighters believe that, just because they are professional fighters, they deserve gmain eventh money right away. These fighters must understand that the companies who sponsor fighters have a marketing budget. With so many televised events, the companies must be even more selective in how they spend their marketing dollars. So, if you are not yet a gmain eventh fighter or your fight is not on the PPV portion of a card, be happy that there are companies willing to pay you extra money to put a patch on your shorts and a logo on your banner. Take that money and invest it in yourself and your training.
- Have an attorney review your deal
Many sponsorship or endorsement contracts, whether for one fight or on a multi-fight basis, are very specific as to what a fighter can or cannot do. For example, many apparel deals allow the fighter to wear only that companyfs brand while training, in interviews, and in public. Being seen in another brand can be considered a breach of contract and could terminate your deal. Many deals also call for additional work from the fighter, such as public appearances or autograph signings after the fight. Make sure before you sign that your training schedule allows for these additional commitments.
- Make sure your promotional company allows for your particular sponsor
All promotional companies have strict clauses in their contracts that prevent their fighters from having sponsors who compete with the companies who sponsor the Events. For example, if Burger King is sponsoring the UFC, a fighter cannot have McDonalds as his main sponsor. So before you sign any agreements with willing sponsors, make sure that there is no conflict with your promoter.
- No negative press
Nothing will make sponsors run away from a fighter quicker than negative press. A DUI (unless you are Jon Jones), positive drug test, or fight outside of the cage can cost a fighter tens of thousands of dollars. The money you will lose from a damaged reputation can mean the difference between having to go back to 9-5 work and training full time.
It is simple mathematics: the more wins a fighter can string together, the higher up in the card he will be placed, and the more interest he will garner from sponsors. If he is lucky enough to be a number one contender or a champion, he will be able to go after more lucrative, long-term endorsement deals from companies outside the immediate MMA arena. Sponsorship money is becoming more and more relevant in MMA, and there are more Fortune 500 companies taking an interest in the sport. The number of opportunities for fighters to make money is growing rapidly, and as long as fighters compose themselves like professional athletes outside the cage and continue to win inside the cage, the sky is the limit on how much additional endorsement money they can make.
Gregory Bloom, Esq. is a sports and entertainment attorney with ChaseLawyers in Miami, FL (www.chaselawyers.com). He has represented numerous high]level athletes in both boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, and has handled complex, high-profile contract negotiations, sponsorship and endorsement deals, and brand recognition opportunities for his clients.