Donald Cerrone among three fighters fined for violations of UFC/Reebok uniform policy

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Donald Cerrone (photo credit Jane Kamin-Oncea © USA Today Sports)

The UFC’s apparel deal with Reebok has been under fire almost from the outset, and their actions this week aren’t going to change any opinions for the better.

The organization revealed earlier in the week that they had issued fines to three fighters and warnings to several others for violations of the “Athlete Outfitting Policy,” in December, and UFC on Fox 17 headliner Donald Cerrone later revealed that he was one of those three.

Said UFC Senior Vice President of Global Consumer Products Tracey Bleczinski in an interview with, “We have had over 99 percent compliance with the Athlete Outfitting Policy. This week will be the first time that we will be issuing reduction in payments for non-compliance with the policy… A warning is issued when an athlete is non-compliant but agrees and takes steps to correct the infraction. There is ample opportunity for an athlete to correct an infraction. The equipment department, as well as our athlete relations teams, are onsite at the event throughout event week, helping the athletes to be compliant. We know that there’s very much an educational process around this, and so that’s why they’re just receiving a warning letter.

“A payment reduction is enacted when an athlete knowingly and seriously violates the policy after receiving an opportunity to correct it,” she continued. “The guidelines, the rules, the expectations were clearly laid out for everyone, and it’s our responsibility to our partners to make sure that we are administering all aspects of the policy. The athletes had plenty of chances to correct the infractions. In any type of organized sport or league, there are parameters and rules that govern every aspect of it, so this is no different than any other regulations around our sport.

“We, the UFC, are investing in the sport, and in order for us to continue to grow, our programs need to be successful, and that requires guidelines and regulations. This program on a whole is good for the brand, good for the athletes. We have people investing in our sport, which only helps everyone.”

Cerrone’s key violation was likely the patch sewn onto his shorts, something he’s done in every fight as a tribute to his grandmother, and he made clear when responding to fans on Twitter this week that fines aren’t going to stop him.

Penick’s Analysis: As they have since announcing the deal with Reebok, the UFC continues to take the stance that it’s just like with other professional sports leagues. To that end, players in the NFL and other leagues are indeed fined for violating uniform policy. However, as has been endlessly pointed out, the fighters in this situation had no say in the negotiation or implementation of this policy. Pro athletes in most every other league have a player’s union or player’s association negotiating with leagues on their behalf so that there’s a say in how these types of things are implemented. That way those athletes – who are getting infinitely larger chunks of revenue than their counterparts in the UFC – have a voice in how things get done. Fighters in the UFC have no such voice, and had no say in the UFC taking away their ability to use sponsors or anything else, and though given “time” to comply with what the UFC ordered, there’s no way of knowing just what they were told. Were they given advance warning of how much it would cost them to not comply? Was this something laid out well in advance or arbitrary and after the fact? Regardless, the fact that they still had no say in how any of this would be handled still leaves it as a bad deal, no matter what they’re trying to accomplish, and this type of thing will only fuel discontent and distaste for the continued relationship between the UFC and Reebok.

[Photo (c) Jayne Kamin Oncea via USA Today Sports]

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