According to M-1 Global, the UFC has a real problem with UFC approved sponsors doing sponsorship deals with Fedor Emelianenko.
Last November, RVCA found themselves on the outs with the UFC after they sponsored Fedor for the Brett Rogers fight. As you may remember, BJ Penn was subsequently forbidden to wear his traditional RVCA gear for his UFC 107 title defense before RVCA and the UFC eventually made amends.
That incident alone was probably enough to convince most UFC approved sponsors to steer clear of The Last Emperor. However, the king of all the MMA clothing lines, Tapout, who have been sponsoring fighters outside the UFC since day one without issue, thought they would be the exception to the unwritten rule.
Not so, says M-1 Global. Tapout recently offered Fedor a potential seven-figure, one-year sponsorship deal which M-1 agreed to, but Tapout withdrew the deal before M-1 had a chance to sign and return the paperwork. The reason? The UFC threatened to ban Tapout from the organization if they followed through with the deal.
“It was our understanding that the T-shirt was in production,” M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelchstein told Sherdog.com on Friday through an interpreter. “However, at the beginning of this week, we were told by our sponsorship representative that Tapout had received a call from (UFC President) Dana (White), which involved him saying that if Fedor signs a T-shirt deal with Tapout, then Tapout would be out of the UFC.”
“The person from Tapout management told us that, no, there weren’t going to be any problems, that Tapout was a company that was older than the UFC and they were a company which has been in the market with fighters that don’t necessarily fight in the UFC,” said Finkelchstein.
“It’s like (White’s) chasing us everywhere, and he’s trying to ruin everything,” said Finkelchstein. “There is constant pressure being exerted on us. We don’t comment about anyone. We don’t harm anyone. We’re just doing what we’re doing, and there’s this constant pressure being put on Fedor like he’s hunted everywhere he goes. Any influence they can exert on his career, if not directly then by any other means, they do it.”
An independent report from BJPenn.com’s Pedro Carrasco not only supports M-1’s story, it specifies that the UFC threatened Tapout with a lifetime ban.
Initially, Fedor Emelianenko, the number one heavyweight fighter in the world, secured a deal to sport the always growing and ever popular “TapOut” clothing line at this weekend’s Strikeforce events.
However, during my time here in San Jose, while spending time with very legitimate sources close to the situation, I was advised that certain parties within the UFC halted TapOuts participation in the event and threatened a UFC lifetime ban, if Emelianenko came out wearing their line.
The UFC and Tapout have yet to issue comments on the story.
With Tapout and virtually every other sponsor that values their relationship with the UFC off the table, Dan Henderson’s Clinch Gear used this as an opportunity to put their brand on MMA’s heavyweight king. Clinch Gear was banned from the UFC when Hendo elected to sign with Strikeforce, and they seem thrilled with how it’s worked out. They’ve suddenly become the big fish in a small pond.
“We’re banned from the UFC and the WEC and we haven’t contested that,” [ Clinch Gear co-founder Aaron Crecy] told Sherdog.com Friday. “We understand they have their reasons. We’re excited for the opportunity to partner with someone like Fedor Emelianenko and we’re really grateful to have the opportunity to work with Strikeforce because it’s brought opportunities like this. We’ve had more exposure through Strikeforce than any other deal we’ve had before. They’ve opened doors for us, and we feel like we’re growing with the promotion. If you ask any MMA fan, I think the Clinch Gear brand has become markedly more visible in the last seven months since we left the UFC.”
If you watched any of the EA Sports MMA videos from E3, you probably noticed Clinch Gear was one of the prominent sponsors on the mat. It’s unlikely they would have been able to secure the same space in Undisputed if they were still in the UFC.