At the UFC Athlete Retreat over the weekend, lightweight Kajan Johnson caused quite a stir by passionately speaking out against the promotion’s exclusive and infamous apparel deal with sports clothing giants Reebok, which has cost so many fighters thousands of dollars in sponsorship income.
UFC welterweight Alan Jouban posted the following footage of the speech online…
The rebel’s words brought an impromptu end to that particular portion of the retreat. However, he tweeted later in the day that a subsequent “sitdown” meeting with UFC executives had positive outcomes.
During an appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Johnson once again spoke about this meeting, which he claimed was called in direct response to his outburst.
“That led to them calling a whole other meeting with all of the fighters, sitting us all down in the room and having an open, honest, back and forth discussion with us, which I don’t think has ever happened before,” Johnson said. “It was amazing. The outcome of that was incredible.”
“They seemed actually truly empathetic to our situation, upset that we weren’t happy with the current deal and wanting to work around that deal in whatever capacity they could to make it better for these next four years that we are still involved with Reebok, so that they are happy and Reebok will actually want to sign that deal again, because right now I don’t think that they are very happy with the press they are getting from this deal.
“So, it ended up being really positive.”
However, Johnson also noted that during the hostile beginnings of that meeting, one UFC executive brought up his Tristar teammate Rory MacDonald, who recently departed the UFC for rival promotion Bellator MMA.
During an appearance on The MMA Hour prior to his debut with Bellator last week, MacDonald admitted that he was actually making less sponsorship money fighting in Bellator than the UFC. This came as a surprise to many, who expected fighters freed from the shackles of the Reebok deal’s exclusivity to make far more money by signing with multiple sponsors and peppering their fight shorts with various logos.
The UFC exec made sure to point this fact out to Johnson.
It was rather obvious selective reasoning, however.
For a start, as Helwani made sure to point out during his interview with Johnson, MacDonald had added that it was his choice not to take on a host of smaller sponsors ahead of his bout with England’s Paul Daley. Instead, he was hoping to attract big name sponsors with whom he could develop long and lucrative relationships. He was choosing to take a hit now in order to make a healthier, steadier profit in the long-term.
Johnson also pointed out that MacDonald’s Bellator contract is worth a great deal more than his UFC one was, thus providing him with the sort of financial breathing room that allows him to comfortably make such smart business decisions.
“He is making $400,000 from Bellator. Why is he going to have to chase sponsorship?” said Johnson.
Kajan Johnson on #themmahour just said that Rory MacDonald, his Tristar teammate, is making $400,000 per fight in Bellator.
— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) May 22, 2017
This is of course just the word of a MacDonald teammate, so it’s far from official, but if MacDonald is indeed making $400,000 per fight under the Bellator banner, that is a huge increase in income for the Canadian welterweight.
At UFC 189 in July of 2015, MacDonald soaked the octagon canvas with his blood and that of Robbie Lawler. It was an epic and, at times, sickeningly brutal war, but he was only paid $139,000 for his losing efforts. That figure is made up of $59,000 in show money, a $50,000 performance bonus, and a $30,000 payout from Reebok. It should be noted, however, that if the result had gone his way, MacDonald would have earned a win-bonus of a further $59,000. Still, his total would have been just $198,000.
That fight represented MacDonald’s penultimate UFC outing. Reoccurring injuries stemming from the bout kept him out of action for almost a year before he fought and lost to Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in June of 2016. That was the final fight on his UFC contract and he entered free agency. He subsequently signed with Bellator in August of 2016.
MacDonald cut through Paul Daley like a scythe on Friday last at Bellator 179, finishing him with a rear-naked choke in the second. His next fight is likely to be a title bout against Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima.
Kajan Johnson(21-11-1, 2-1 in the UFC) hasn’t fought since a September 2015 decision win over Naoyuki Kotani.