Bellator MMA announced the signing of Josh “The Punk” Thomson (20-8, 1 NC) to an exclusive multi-year, multi-fight contract last Tuesday following his stint with the UFC.
It was well documented that there were some issues with Thomson’s contract. The UFC says that they never offered him a new contract while Thomson’s camp says that they did, but a deal couldn’t be made.
Thomson claims that the UFC did, but it was his decision to let his contract expire and a major factor in the at decision was because of the UFC – Reebok sponsorship deal.
“I was offered a contract extension [two fights ago],” Thomson told ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto. “They wanted to re-up me then, and I declined. I wasn’t very happy with the numbers. After my next fight [a split decision loss to Bobby Green in July 2014], they came back and offered another contract and even upped the pay a little.
“I still declined. I was willing to go ahead and fight out my contract. I don’t have a problem with the UFC. They run their business. I treated this like a business negotiation.”
Thomson, who is 36-years-old, is currently on a three-fight losing streak. Once Strikeforce was closed by Zuffa, he went just 1-4 while in the promotion. His only win in that stint came in his first fight back in the UFC over Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 7 by second-round TKO. He dropped two split decisions to Benson Henderson at UFC on FOX 10 and Bobby Green at UFC on FOX 12.
Thomson claims that he was earning between $60,000 and $80,000 in sponsorship prior to the Reebok fighter sponsorship being rolled out last month.
“My understanding is that we have to wear Reebok with the UFC,” Thomson said. “There’s no other option. Well, you get paid to wear Reebok but you only get paid in their program, whatever their pay scale is. I took my negotiations over to Bellator, where there is no sponsorship tax, so my sponsors can sponsor me directly.
“So, if I have a company that is sponsoring me for $20,000 per fight, my sponsors aren’t getting taxed by Bellator, which is more money in my pocket. You can’t say that the UFC can match that. They just can’t.”
There have been many who have speculated that the Reebok sponsorship deal might be a game changer when UFC fighters chose to re-sign with the UFC or sign with another promotion. It will be interesting to see if this is a trend going forward.
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