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How to become a sponsored MMA fighter

How to become a sponsored MMA fighter

Becoming a sponsored fighter is a goal for many who compete in Mixed Martial Arts. Our favorite big-name athletes all have sponsors who help them cover training costs and put more money into their pockets. Many high-level athletes in any sport rely on sponsorships as their primary source of income. Often the viewer watching their favorite fighter on TV thinks they are getting big bucks from the fight, but the reality is that most of their income for that fight will come from their sponsors. 

The ability to receive sponsorships is not just for the best of the best. Sponsorships are an option for athletes of any level, from the UFC and Bellator all the way down to a nonsanctioned event in a bar.

An often misunderstood aspect of sponsorships is that a fighter usually feels that sponsorship is reserved only for fighters as a reward for their hard work. That they earn sponsorships through hard-fought battles in the cage, and businesses pay them for their hard work at their sport. This is a misconception. Another misconception is that the fitness company that sponsors the fighter does so because they want their logo on TV or in front of spectators in an arena. This is not correct either. So what does the MMA business that sponsors fighters want? A return on their investment.

Large international companies and small mom-and-pop businesses both want the same thing, to grow and gain a more extensive customer base. To be willing to make an investment that grows their customer base, the return must be greater than the investment the company makes. If a significant-top Mixed Martial Arts brand sponsors an MMA fighter, or grappler for that matter, let's say $10,000. The company expects the fighter to generate more than $10,000 in revenue. The expectation is typically double the investment. At the same time, if a local mom and pop store sponsors a local MMA fighter for $500, they expect to receive a return of $1,000 or more. 

It is important to remember this a logo on a shirt does not increase the business value or gain an MMA business revenue. If they did, politicians would have logos all over their suits. A logo on a shirt is not a sponsorship. It is only a representation of the businesses you agreed to represent. A shirt logo is the least financially valuable aspect of the agreement. An example can be Michael Chandler, who recently switched from Bellator to the UFC. In a recent interview, he said that the money he makes in the cage is basically the same, but his sponsorship opportunity had increased dramatically. Remember that logos on fighters while fighting in the UFC are not allowed. 

As the athlete seeking sponsorships, you have to show that the value you can bring to these businesses is greater than the financial value you are requesting. Walking into an MMA related business or a local non-MMA business and asking for money to be sponsored without a plan on how you will ensure the company receives an increase on the money-back than they give you is a guarantee that you will not only not get this sponsor today, but now you have shown them they do not want to sponsor you in the future. 

Before you approach a business for sponsorship, whether a large international corporation or a small business in your local community, you have to have a detailed plan on how they will receive an RIO before contacting them. 

Before you contact sponsors, you must already have the below questions answered:

  • How will they receive a return on investment?
  • How many people will you get their product in front of BEFORE the event?
  • How will you market them at the weigh-ins?
  • If you win, how will you market them in the post-fight interview?
  • How will you market their business on social media?
  • How many followers do I have on social media?
  • Even more important, what is my engagement rate on social media? (having 10k followers is useless if you have low engagement.)
  • How will you represent them AT the event? As we discussed earlier, a logo on a shirt has zero value. 
  • How will you represent them AFTER the event?

Most consider the sponsorship contract to be completed once the MMA event is over. That could be true if you did not value the sponsorship and did not want to contact the same business for the opportunity again. However, if you want a continuing relationship, you will want to go above and beyond to delight the sponsoring company by doing more than the contract stated. Showing your long-term value can help you get long-term sponsorships beyond just a single event. 

If you are an MMA fighter or BJJ grappler that has worked with sponsors or is currently looking for sponsorship, we at can help. When you create your profile on our site, you can select if you are looking to help add value to MMA businesses looking for fighters to help grow their brands. Creating your profile and selecting these options will show Mixed Martial Arts businesses worldwide that they have the potential to be a valuable asset to their growth. Create your profile today to start increasing your visibility and income.