Fighting the Good Fight

Mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes have been actively entering into partnerships for apparel and other categories, or launching their own merchandise programs, in 2020 and 2021:

  • Conor McGregor launched an apparel collaboration early this month with Roots of Fight, including t-shirts as well as a hoodie, a thermal shirt, and sweatpants. The collection was available for two weeks on Roots of Fight’s online shop, with proceeds directed to the Children’s Health Foundation Crumlin in McGregor’s home country of Ireland. McGregor’s ongoing ventures include the men’s clothing brand August McGregor, in partnership with bespoke clothier David August, and Proper No. Twelve, his own brand of Irish Whiskey.
  • Cody “No Love” Garbrandt announced a partnership with Vibe Growth Corporation in mid-January for a line of cannabis pre-rolls produced by Vibe’s indoor cultivation company, Hype Cannabis Co. There are three products to start: one for training, one for relaxation, and one for sleep and recovery.
  • Carlos Condit paired with Sene on manufactured-to-order jeans made with stretch denim, allowing wearers to practice their MMA moves while in their street clothes. The deal was announced in September and the products dropped in November.
  • Sean O’Malley launched his own merchandise line last fall, sold through his online Suga Shop, including t-shirts, hoodies, caps, condoms, and marijuana grinders. Future plans include a strain of cannabis. O’Malley previously had a deal with Reebok.
  • Nick Diaz signed Duel Drinkware in June is his master licensing partner for hard goods in North America, with a focus on lifestyle products for the home. Plans include décor, tabletop items, bar products, outdoor grilling, health and fitness, and men’s entertaining under the Nick Diaz, Don’t Be Scared Homie, Nick Diaz Army, Legacy Collection, and Legend Collection brands. Diaz also has a deal with Game Up Nutrition for CBD products.

The last year has brought a flourish of licensing activity for MMA organizations, as well as individual athletes. That is particularly true for the UFC, which has long maintained a significant licensing program and is represented by IMG for licensing. UFC signed a deal with Panini for trading cards this week (replacing Topps) and another with Zappos earlier in January as its exclusive U.S. wholesale partner for fan gear and apparel such as t-shirts, hoodies, and headwear (and its nonexclusive partner for overseas markets). Significant agreements announced in 2020 included Jazwares for collectible figures, Venum for in-ring fight kits and retail MMA combat apparel, O2 Industries for event respirators, and Dapper Labs for digital collectibles. EA Sports also renewed its agreement for UFC videogames in a 10-year extension of the companies’ existing license.

Meanwhile, a new organization, the Professional Fighters League, retained CAA Sports Licensing in November to represent its brand-extension activities in fight kits, fan apparel, interactive gaming, fitness and training, and other categories. Separately, MMA Global announced the formation of a new league in August, with fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov named as its brand ambassador. There is nothing to report yet on the licensing front, but merchandising news will likely be forthcoming as this project moves forward.

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