Reebok flap latest on 'Rampage' Jackson's list of gripes with UFC
by Steven Marrocco on Jan 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm ET
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson said his reasons for planning to leave the UFC after his next fight remain the same, but he's found a new one in recent months.
The former UFC light heavyweight champ and action-movie actor is incensed that the promotion won't let him wear new sponsor Reebok into the cage when he fights Glover Teixeira (19-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) next week in the co-main event of UFC on FOX 6
"I see other fighters sponsored by Nike," said Jackson (32-10 MMA, 7-4 UFC), referring to much-publicized deals between the top apparel maker and current light heavy champ Jon Jones as well as middleweight champ Anderson Silva and former heavyweight champ Junior Dos Santos. "Why can't I have Reebok?"
Sullen and disgruntled throughout a conference call in support of the event, which takes place Jan. 26 at United Center in Chicago, Jackson issued a fresh round of criticism regarding the promotion's business practices, stating he turned down a new contract offer because he felt disrespected and exploited.
Jackson, who starred in the 2010 remake of "The A-Team," expressed interest in professional boxing after his time ends inside the octagon.
"I hear (former UFC fighter Kevin) 'Kimbo Slice' (Ferguson) is doing pretty good," he said.
Jackson, whose contract was acquired by the UFC from the World Fighting Alliance in 2006, announced in March that he was parting ways with the industry-leader after 11 fights with the promotion. Explaining the reason for his departure on Twitter, he vented about the promotion trashing his performance at UFC 144 despite knowledge that he was injured.
The UFC subsequently confirmed that Jackson's next appearance would be his last.
The fighter said Reebok would stick by him despite the ban, but surmised that the UFC's decision was illegal. MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) confirmed Jackson's sponsorship with the apparel maker.
"We are excited to help Rampage train to fight at his best and we look forward to working with him in the future," said John Lynch, Reebok's vice president of U.S. marketing and merchandising.
The UFC, meanwhile, said it was open to establishing a relationship with Reebok.
"We work with apparel companies from all over the world through our approved partnership program," a spokesperson said. "We've not yet been approached by Reebok on behalf of 'Rampage,' but welcome the conversation. We do everything we can to support our athletes getting these types of sponsorships and will continue to do so moving forward."
The UFC in 2009 instituted a policy to charge a fee for companies seeking to sponsor fighters. Today, they are required to pay between $50,000 and $250,000 for the privilege, depending on the size of the company, according to a source with knowledge of the policy.
Companies may also ink partnership deals with the UFC that offer more exposure inside the octagon.
Prior to a fight, the promotion sends out a list of sponsors with whom the UFC has inked exclusive deals. They include energy drink Xyience, Harley Davidson, Ultimate Poker, Budweiser and MetroPCS, according to sources. Managers and fighters are required to submit proposed sponsors for approval.
There are no apparel companies on the UFC's list of exclusive sponsors, sources say.
UFC President Dana White has defended the promotion's sponsorship tax, stating that the promotion is one of the most lenient sports leagues in the world when it comes to what fighters can and can't wear.
Those restrictions are built into a fighter's contract. The UFC's standard promotional agreement states that "all sponsorship and endorsement approvals shall be at (UFC parent company) Zuffa's sole discretion."
Jones' deal with Nike was heralded as potential game-changer for fighters seeking sponsorship from the world's leading sports apparel companies.
Jackson, though, believes that door is shut. Fed up with his bosses, he's ready to test the waters of free agency.
"It's not just about money," Jackson said. "It's about respect. I step in the octagon (and) I put my life on the line, and I try to be an exciting fighter. I just don't feel appreciated. I'd rather take a money cut and go to another show and feel appreciated."