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Between a rock and a hard place: Shoe treatment hurts UFC fighters | cfu

In the lead up to the final fight of his UFC contract earlier this month, Nate Diaz took aim at Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson over the movie star’s recently announced shoe deal with the UFC.

“These shoes suck”, Diaz said while holding up one of Johnson’s Project Rock shoes for the camera during an ESPN interview before UFC 279. “Look at these shoes. They made me put this shit on. Fuck these shoes.”

Although Diaz’s comments were removed from the official broadcast, the clip later went viral after being posted anonymously on Twitter. At the time, he served as the only example of a UFC fighter speaking publicly against the organization’s newest sponsor, a sponsor whose money is unlikely to enrich athletes who risk their bodies in a punishing sport.

In late August, the UFC announced a multi-year partnership with Project Rock, a partnership between Johnson and Under Armor to create co-branded footwear that would be provided to fighters as part of their official fight gear. All UFC fighters and corner teams are required to wear Project Rock footwear during fight week events, workouts and during their walk to the Octagon.

Our @UFC ✖️ @ProjectRock partnership is anchored in hard work & legacy.

Work ethic & legacy are the pillars of all @UFC athletes.

The #HardestWorkersInTheRoom defining their LEGACY. @ProjectRock is proud to be the official footwear partner of UFC. #ForThoseWhoWalkTheWalk

— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) August 30, 2022


The partnership was signed in January 2022 and officially kicked off at UFC Fight Night: Win vs. Tiuvasa on September 3.

“The warrior men and women of the UFC compete in their iconic octagon with pride, purpose, passion, intensity and MANA,” Johnson said at the UFC press release. “Legacy is a big word to me and Project Rock is proud to offer training gear to help support and nurture all UFC athletes looking to establish their own impactful legacy in the UFC and beyond.”

Earlier this month, Project Rock launched a new marketing campaign that featured Johnson calling fighters the “hardest workers in the room” and also highlighting several UFC athletes celebrating the actor’s commitment to the sport.

However, while Johnson appears to have the respect of some of the organization’s athletes, The Guardian has learned that UFC fighters will not see any of the profits from the movie star’s lucrative deal. According to multiple fighter representatives who had athletes competing at UFC 279 and wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the subject, none of their athletes were paid any additional fees to wear or endorse Project Rock footwear.

Apparently, the Project Rock deal is incorporated into the UFC’s Promotional Guidelines Compliance (PDC) program, where fighters are paid a set sum on fight week for complying with the organization’s equipment policies and required promotional duties. The figure depends on the number of fights an athlete has had with the UFC or whether he is a champion or title challenger for a particular event. For UFC 279, the highest to pay of the show was $21,000 while the lowest was $4,000 (these payouts are separate from the fee they earn for actual fights).

The contracted pay structure does not change with the addition of new UFC sponsorships, including the UFC’s profitable deals with Venum and if a fighter was paid $4,000 from the PDC program previously, they will earn the same amount even with the new revenue. of the Project Rock deal. However, neither the UFC nor Under Armor shed light on the scope of the deal.

“We don’t disclose this level of detail in any of our partnerships,” an Under Armor media spokesperson told The Guardian. “However, we are proud to work with Dwayne Johnson and the UFC to bring UA performance footwear solutions to UFC fighters.”

It’s important to note that the UFC has long been able to maintain a stranglehold on its roster due to the fact that its fighters are independent contractors with no union or association to collectively bargain for their rights.

Unlike the vast majority of sports leagues and organizations, where athletes receive between 47% and 50% of the sport’s revenue, the UFC has historically he paid between 16% and 19% of income to his fighters. In 2019, the promotion reported $900 million in revenue, but only 16% was paid to the roughly 600 UFC fighters. This is in contrast to the NFL, for example, where two-thirds of the money from jersey sales goes to the players.

According to the American financial services company Moody’s, the UFC’s income was from 2021 over a billion dollarswith similarly high figures expected in 2022. Despite the UFC’s record earnings, the salary of the fighters is still woefully low.

During a recent marketing campaign, Johnson noted that the “values ​​and fundamentals of Project Rock… are so aligned with the values ​​and fundamentals of the UFC and the fighters.” However, given the fact that the foundation of the UFC was built on exploitative labor, that may not be a comparison Johnson wants to associate himself with.

Though it’s unclear how much Johnson said in the UFC deal, the actor, whose industry has multiple professional actor’s unions, has been asked by other fighters to fight for a more favorable deal for the athletes he says he respects.

“Hey brother @TheRock, if you’re a fan of what we do, make the deal favorable to those who model your shoe,” said UFC lightweight Terrance McKinney. tweeted In the past week. “I understand that it is not your fault or your business doing this to us, but show us the love that you think you are. Get in our corner and support us.”

The Guardian was unable to reach Johnson’s management for comment. However, it’s worth noting that Johnson is represented by Endeavor, which also owns the UFC.



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