Fighters asked to wear The Rock’s shoes, but won’t get paid from new UFC sponsorship
“For those that walk the walk.” That’s the slogan for the co-branded UFC and Project Rock shoes that was announced as the MMA promotion’s official footwear. During the launch, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson repeatedly praised fighters for all the hard work and sacrifice they put in daily.Fighters and their teams have been asked to wear these new Project Rock shoes during events, but as Bloody Elbow has learned through multiple sources, these athletes won’t be getting a cut from the new deal.According to several fighters and managers who wished to remain anonymous, athletes have not received any additional compensation for wearing the new brand. This was also confirmed by one fighter from UFC 279, who wore The Rock’s products during fight week.“The values and foundation of Project Rock, they are so aligned with the values and the foundations of UFC, and of the fighters,” Johnson said on their most recent marketing campaign.Since 2011, Johnson has been a client of Endeavor, which currently owns the UFC.Nate Diaz, the main attraction for that PPV event, took shots at the UFC’s new sponsorship deal before his headlining bout.“These shoes f–king suck,” Diaz said in an interview with UFC and ESPN’s Megan Olivi. “Look at these shoes, they made me put this shit on. F–k these shoes!” Diaz’s comments were cut off and not included on the final clip in ESPN’s channel. The original Reebok outfitting deal from 2014 was actually made up of two components, clothing — or uniforms — and a shoe deal. In March of 2021, Venum replaced Reebok, but only as the official uniform sponsor. While they only rolled out their new marketing campaign recently, the UFC signed a lucrative multi-year deal with Under Armour and Project Rock back in January 2022. Under Armour is the parent company of Project Rock, leading to Dwanye Johnson’s brand to become the UFC’s official global footwear partner. Fighters won’t be receiving any additional pay for the new products that they’ll be wearing. Why? The way the UFC’s contracts are structured, regardless of how many new sponsorship deals, logos and products these fighters have to wear (Venum, Project Rock, Crypto.com, etc), these are all just viewed as part of the Promotional Guidelines Compliance Pay they’ve already set before.Fighters get compensated in tiers depending on their amount of fights with the promotion or by champion/challenger status. Those that don’t comply with the guidelines would not get paid, and any additional UFC sponsorships wouldn’t technically change that contracted pay structure.It’s also worth noting that when Reebok was previously criticized for the low pay the athletes received, the company distanced themselves and said those “are dictated by the contract between the individual fighter and the UFC.”The UFC’s promotional guidelines from 2018 include rules for using only “approved” apparel, headwear, fight gloves, footwear, headphones, mouth guards, knee or ankle sleeves and wraps, flags, and various accessories like socks, headbands, bags, and towels.This set up opens UFC’s already booming business for a lot of additional sponsorship opportunities and revenue streams down the road, but unfortunately not really much for fighters.