Bjorn Rebney: 100% Of Sponsorship Revenue Should Go To The Fighters

Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney is a smart man.

Over the last five years and beginning in 2009, Rebney has been able to take his fledgling Bellator MMA promotion and grow it into the second biggest mixed martial arts franchise in the world, and the UFC’s principal rival.

Once thought of as a bit of a joke, the brand now has regularly scheduled shows on Spike TV, a new contract with FOX Sports Latin America and a growing number of marquee fighters and talent competing under its banner. Subsequently, and over the last few years, Bellator has begun to capture the attention of MMA fans world-wide and resultantly, begun to grow its audience.

As Rebney sits atop a promotion similar to that of the UFC, he has, consequently, similar problems and issues to that of his senior circuit counterpart.  

To the point and regarding the recent rash of news stories concerning (fighter) sponsorship money, Rebney has publicly addressed the issue and stipulated as to what his “philosophy” on the matter is. On the subject, Rebney once again sings a tune that would be difficult to envision either fighters or fans being turned off by.

In an interview with AXS TV,Bellator’s CEO followed up his (fighter positive) statement of last week – (that) “promoting the fighters should be first and foremost” – by stating unequivocally, that he views sponsorship money as something that should go“100% to the fighters.”

Further, Rebney stated that Bellator has “never had a sponsor tax and never will have a sponsor tax.” In short, Rebney has affirmed that sponsors should not have to pay the promotion for the right to sponsor a fighter.

This point is of particular significance.

As it stands and from what we know of how the UFC deals with sponsorships, as told to us by former UFC middleweight Nate Quarry, the senior circuit charges sponsors – Quarry put the figure at 100K – for the right to be on the official sponsors list.

Once on it, fighters are then free to select from any sponsors on the list and seek out a funding from those sources. However, if sponsors are disinterested in the fighter or have already spent their budgets, then the fighter is out of luck.

In comparing the two methodologies for dealing with sponsorships it would appear that Bellator’s stands in stark contrast to that of the UFC’s, and regardless of whether or not the latter switches to a “uniform” based sponsorship model.

As a point of order, it should be noted then when the UFC’s president and its CEO, Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta respectively, addressed the sponsorship question last week, and in particular Nate Quarry’s comments on the subject, neither made mention of any UFC sponsorship taxes.

The only comments made by the pair were, and according to White, that sponsorships and how they work out for a fighter is not his “problem”, while Fertitta stated that he was “proud” of what the brand had done for fighters. However and regarding the specific question of sponsorships and the issue of a sponsor(s) tax, Fertitta negated to address the subject directly. As Fertitta put it, “I’m not going to argue or counter every specific claim made by Nate Quarry on some website.”

As to what fans will make of it all, it might be reasonable to guess that they’ll look at the two models and conclude that fighters get a better sponsorship deal with Bellator, than they do with the UFC.   

In terms of the fighters and how they might view the two packages, it’s anyone’s guess. As no one other than the fighters and the two promotions know the true inner workings of these deals, it would be pure speculation to simply state that fighters must look more favorably on Bellator’s ‘hands off’ approach to sponsorships, as compared to the UFC’s taxed structure.

However and that said, it might also be reasonable to suspect that they do.  



10 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Zip

    Zip

    February 23, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Keep it simple, 50/50 would be fair. No up front fee, and both parties would be compensated.

    • Profile photo of Brian Cox

      Brian Cox

      February 23, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      I'd say let them keep their money, but the sponsor have to approved; not charged, just approved. I think that would be fair. It would allow the fighters to keep their cash, while allowing the promotion editorial control of it's Octagon. To me, that would be a more than fair deal.

      On another note, your girl looked absolutely amazing last night, Zip. In a word, wow. It sucked that the fight was so short, I felt ripped off in that sense, but hey, what can ya do. Either way, she was very impressive in terms of how she trashed a very good fighter. Good for her. I really hope the UFC brings in Cyborg and that in doing so, Santos can give her a legitimate challenge.

      • Profile photo of Zip

        Zip

        February 23, 2014 at 10:16 pm

        I won't argue much my friend because #1, I can't win, and #2, I agree for the most part. Bjorn can say that 100% should go to the fighter, and he should be saying that right now, but in the end, it won't. The brand will make the argument that it is their stage that promotes the product being sponsored, and the fighter will make the argument that it is him/her that the fans have tuned in to watch. Both are right. Why not split it 50/50.

        Yeah Ronda looked great. Hope Ronda/Cyborg happens.

      • Profile photo of clownshoes

        clownshoes

        February 24, 2014 at 12:28 pm

        In my opinion, the UFC should be able to charge advertisers to advertise through the medium of the UFC. The UFC puts the event together, and provides an outlet for these advertisements. Why should the the advertisers be exempt from compensating the UFC for the costs of putting together the medium of their advertisements?

        Also, the sponsors aren't just sponsoring fighters to be associated with the brand of the fighter; clearly they also want to be associated with the UFC brand, and therefore should pay the UFC.

        • Profile photo of Brian Cox

          Brian Cox

          February 24, 2014 at 4:50 pm

          To Clown, TE & Kraz

          All this is true, but at the same time the brand has built that value off the work of, what are, independent contractors / businesses. Fighters are not teams with a rotating roster of players. When the fighter retires the team retires, so to speak. As such, fighters individually and collectively, in conjunction with what has gone in the past, create the real value of the brand.

          Yes, it can easily be argued that the UFC has a right to charge sponsors. The brand has grown into a global concern and they have the right to profit from all angles of it.

          However and as I understand it, none of the UFC's tax money goes to the fighters. Instead, they keep it. Resultantly, sponsors have to fork out money above and beyond what they pay in tax, if they wish to sponsor a fighter.

          To me, and maybe this is where the brand is going with a uniform tax, is that pool of tax money should be divided between the brand and the fighters. As the brand has grown and can charge more, it does make sense that the UFC takes charge of the sponsorships. I think that makes sense, but it should be dispersed and not held. It would seem that the brand could easily come up with a graded scale so that higher tier fighters don't get ripped off and one that ensures that lower tier ones go hungry.

          And agreed that sponsors want to be associated with the UFC. As such, it's reasonable to remove from fighters their traditional sponsor rights and it can easily be argued that it's to their benefit…if there's disbursement. However, sponsors also want associations with big name fighters and not as much with the lesser. As such, it's tacit acknowledgement that fighters bring the real value to the stage that the UFC sets. Resultantly, the deserve a big piece of that sponsor pie and it needs to shared in such away as to feed both the marquee and non-marquee fighters.

          At the end of the day, I think this will all work itself out. I think the UFC knows there's a problem and where fighters like Travis Browne might not have any sponsorship issues – because he's a winning contender – other fighters who aren't so well known probably do.

          Either way, you all raise valid points.

    • Profile photo of grandslam

      grandslam

      February 23, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      I disagree Zip.

      Your 50/50 recommendation will still make the fighter's earnings disproportionate.

  2. Profile photo of TheXperience

    TheXperience

    February 24, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Rebney needs to shut his lying ass up! When (if ever, which i highly doubt) Bellator reaches the UFC's level, they will start charging the sponsors too, PERIOD! He flap can his jaw and say whatever he wants, but as soon as they grow to a certain point "VIACOM", is gonna demand sponsor tax, as they should. Him saying 100% of sponsorship revenue should go to the fighters is nonsense. It's no different than with commercials… you pay the actor/actrice some cash to wear/present your brand and to use their likeness, but you'll also pay the tv network to air the fucking commercial. It's the exact same principal. They're pretty much paying for airtime!

  3. Profile photo of kraziexx

    kraziexx

    February 24, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Sponsorship tax it self is not the problem, perhaps it is the amount they are charging
    in the end, UFC is the brand, and you (sponsors) are paying to be on the UFC
    not the GSP show, or the Anderson Silva show
    you can sponsor GSP, Anderson Silva all you want, and they can wear it outside of UFC time
    I understand fans would like to see their favorite fighters get paid more
    sure UFC makes a ton of money, but they also pay a ton of money in advertisement/legal etc
    unlike Bellator or smaller promitions, they have a huuuge behind the scene staff that no one ever thinks about
    it is not cheap expanding out to different countries, both in term of exposure and legally

    with that being said, I do like the idea of lower tier fighters starting purse being increased slightly
    however, that would make the lower tier more cut throat
    then again, not everyone is meant to be a fighter, and they should not be paid like one
    if you are not a A list fighter, you will not be compensated as one
    chances are, I am not buying a PPV for him/her either

    • Profile photo of TheXperience

      TheXperience

      February 24, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      Agreed….

      The thing also… if entry level fighters would get paid more, they would get cut sooner too if they don't perform well, cause the UFC is not gonna hand out checks to incompetent fighters. Right now, they are "affordable" and they might get 1 or 2 chances to redeem themselves after a lackluster performance. I mean everyone can have a bad day.. but once they start getting paid more, they'll get cut quick! Look at Fitch… he got cut after that 1 loss (even though he won the majority of his fights in the UFC) but that 1 lackluster performance (on top of the other boring ones) just did not match up to the kind of PAY he was getting. So they cut him, to bring some new fresh, more exciting guys in. Now he's OUT and maybe 5 new entry level/mid level fighters are IN. To make a long story short, more fighter's get the opportunity to fight in the UFC.

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