One of the best things about the UFC has always been its individuality as sport. Unlike a NFL or NBA teams, each individual contracted by the UFC has his/her own look. From the fight shorts to the shirts they walk out in, MMA fighters have been able to display their individual personalities. According to recent posts, that is now changing as the organization is bidding out to create a standardized UFC uniform. So if other athletes and major sport organizations are doing it, why is it such a big deal in the UFC? The answer as always is money.
Current fighters have individual sponsorship deals with companies like Nike, UnderArmour, Affliction, TapouT, Reebok and more. But if a fighter is sponsored by Nike, and the UFC chooses UnderArmour for their uniform provider, then all fighters would be required to wear UA in the octagon. The fighter would be free to represent Nike in any other venue, but not in UFC sponsored events. Malki Kawa, one of the top agents in MMA, likened the scenario to LeBron James repping Nike, but the NBA forcing him to wear Adidas on the court.
While UFC President Dana White has said that most fighters are tired of having to seek out individual sponsorships and are open to the concept of uniforms, there are many fighters who have worked long and hard for their individual fighter identities. Felice Herrig has long since scoffed at the usual apparel of board shorts on fighters. Instead, she has created her own personalized image of a gladiator skirt. Herrig’s unique apparel has become a part of her overall personal brand, and forcing her into a uniform could damage that.
For a sport that has always set itself apart from all others for its individuality, I am not sure this move to standardized uniforms is one that White should make hastily. While what the fighters wear does not make them a better fighter, it does provide them a part of their overall identity, and a brand is not something that should be messed with lightly.