The next big athletic endorser is not a jock. It’s “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, the outspoken UFC’s women’s bantamweight champion, who’s the crossover sports celebrity of the moment.
In less than two years, Rousey has exploded into the biggest star in the formerly all-male UFC. She’s scored a national endorsement deal with Xyience Xenergy, supporting roles in Entourage, The Expendables 3 and Fast & Furious 7, and Best Female Athlete honors at the ESPY Awards.
There’s another deal on the horizon. The 27-year-old will likely be the face of the UFC’s first official outfitting deal, according to Mike Mossholder, UFC’s svp of global marketing partnerships.
The UFC is “actively engaged in conversations” with a “premium apparel line” for an exclusive deal to outfit the league’s 400-plus fighters, said Mossholder, who would not reveal the outfitter. Since Rousey’s the “No. 1 most requested athlete” by UFC sponsors like MetroPCS, it’s “highly likely” she’d be highlighted. Reps from Nike, Under Armour and Adidas either declined to comment or could not be reached
A deal could be lucrative for both the UFC and the athletes who would get their cut. Nike’s paying the NFL an estimated $1.1 billion over five years to put the Swoosh on uniforms. Historically, the UFC has allowed athletes to cut their own deals for the brands they wear inside the Octagon.
Rousey already ranks No. 3 in ticket sales for UFC. When the official energy drink of UFC put her image on cans, sales jumped 12 percent, said Xyience president John Lennon. She now wears the brand’s logo inside the Octagon.
Rousey said she liked how Mike Tyson fought in plain black trunks and has opted to keep sponsors to a minimum. “You give yourself more value if you don’t walk out looking like a race car covered in ads,” she said. “I like to think my sponsors are valued more because it’s more clean looking.”
Rousey, who is represented by WME, is interested in more deals but is in “no rush” because she wants to be totally “committed” to her sponsors.
Much media coverage of the single, California blonde has focused on either her sex appeal (Rousey posed semi-nude for ESPN The Magazine’s “Body” issue) or alleged “Mean Girl’ persona (“Why the world’s best female fighter loves to be hated,” says The New Yorker). Erin Kane, senior director of sports marketing agency Octagon’s North American sales and marketing group, believes it’s refreshing to find a female athlete who’s not dying to be loved. “I like seeing strong women who are not afraid to speak their minds,” said Kane.