A Behind-the-Scenes Look at UFC Fighters’ Endorsement Deals

A regular UFC fighter may not get paid much, but with the help of endorsement deals, they stand to make millions. Although UFC fighters can’t get in-ring sponsorships anymore, endorsement deals still remain a lucrative way for fighters to increase their pay. Here’s a look at how the magic happens.

Types of UFC endorsement deals

Because in-ring sponsorships by any company other than Reebok are banned, most UFC fighters’ endorsements are outside the ring, usually in the form of an ad, often times a picture or video.

Some popular UFC stars with endorsement deals may post pictures or videos on social media about the brand. Others may shoot an ad that gets played during UFC events. Another option, though a less common one, is to simply have the fighter talk about the companies that endorse them. We see this mostly on Twitter. Most companies, however, want a picture or video to go along with an endorsement.

But like sponsorships, the UFC has the final say on which companies can endorse a fighter outside of the ring. This is mainly to prevent a problematic company from being associated in any way with the UFC and its fighters. 

Which UFC fighter to endorse? 

Generally speaking, the most popular fighters get endorsement deals. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a champion or not. For example, Paige Vanzant, who’s never been a UFC champion, has over 2 million Instagram followers. Her popularity in part came from her time on Dancing with the Stars, but Vanzant has been a fairly successful fighter, too. Her popularity on social media allows her to be a lucrative fighter concerning endorsement deals.

Fighters don’t have to be globally popular like Conor McGregor or Khabib Nurmagomedov in order to get lucrative deals. Many smaller companies may sponsor local fighters because they don’t want national attention; they just want local attention.

But, of course, the more famous the fighter, the more valuable the deals. McGregor, in particular, makes millions from his endorsement deals with big companies like Burger King and Monster Energy.

The risks and benefits of endorsement deals

However, companies face plenty of risks when endorsing a fighter. A lot of things can happen in the UFC. Those who are at the top may suddenly find themselves at the bottom. Companies don’t want to endorse those types of fighters because their investment may be gone in a flash.

This is exactly what happened to former bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw after he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Many of his endorsement deals were suspended after his fall from grace. That’s why companies want to sponsor a UFC fighter who will have some longevity in the sport. 

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It doesn’t matter if this longevity comes from the competitors’ actual fights or not, as long as a UFC fighter can stay relevant and popular, then companies will be interested.

For example, Brock Lesnar, the former heavyweight champion, famously talked trash about Bud Light and praised Coors Light because Coors endorsed him. This deal was well worth it for Coors. Although Lesnar tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and barely fights in the UFC, he’s still popular enough that fans remember his beer preference. That’s exactly the type of longevity companies seek from endorsement deals.