Benson Henderson says he could have lost up to $100K a year through UFC’s Reebok deal

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Benson Henderson’s discussed a number of reasons for his decision to sign with Bellator over the UFC, with the Reebok deal being a particular source of contention. It’s been of significant concern for a lot of fighters, but especially those with established names who saw one source of their income slashed significantly, and Henderson’s now put a number to just how much he was affected by the deal.

In an interview with Newsday.com, Henderson talked about just how much of an impact the shift to the Reebok outfitting policy had on his earnings.

“That made a huge, huge impact on the deal,” Henderson said. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t play into the deal. Reebok deal, we’ll see how it plays out, it’s playing out to mediocre fanfare so far. For me, I’m one of the fighters who lost out on a lot of money, a lot of money, when the rumors of the Reebok deal came out, and when it went into effect, I lost out on a lot of money.

“Being told I have to wear this, then being compensated with a few pennies, I’m not a big fan of,” he continued. “Being told I have to do this and being compensated with nothing, I’m not a big fan of. I’m not an employee, I’m an independent contractor, and if you’re an independent contractor, you don’t have to do certain things. So being told what to wear, you have to wear this, you have to do this, you have to dance like this for us, dance like that for us, I wasn’t a big fan of that.

“So again, that’s something Bellator brought to the table that UFC can’t, you’re not allowed. I was in the top tier, you can look it up in public records, the top tier for the Reebok deal is $20,000, so if I were to fight four times in a year at $20,000 is $80,000 in sponsorship money. So for a whole year I get $80K for wearing Reebok and that would’ve been over $100,000 I would’ve lost in that one year from the Reebok deal.”

Penick’s Analysis: The “independent contractor” issue regarding the uniform deal is a salient point, and perhaps even more than the class action suit arguments might be something on which fighters can challenge the UFC. Given how much of a difference there is between what he could have been making before and after the deal, the UFC would have needed to come with that much more in base salary, and given they failed to do that while Bellator also gives a platform for outside sponsorships. Henderson’s where he needs to be for himself right now, and the more he talks about his thought process, the clearer that becomes.

[Photo (c) Ron Chenoy via USA Today Sports]

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