UFC names Reebok official supplier

The UFC announced a six-year partnership with Reebok on Tuesday, naming the sports apparel company its exclusive uniform supplier and commercial outfitter.

Financial terms of the deal, which goes into effect July 6, 2015, were not disclosed. UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta stated it is "the biggest non-broadcast partnership our company has ever signed."

The announcement is a landmark in mixed martial arts and the first of its scope in combat sports. The deal will eliminate independent sponsorships in the UFC's Octagon, which athletes have long relied upon to supplement fight purses.

Fighters no longer will be permitted to wear independent sponsorships during a fight or the promotion leading up to it, but can maintain sponsorships outside of events.

UFC president Dana White told ESPN.com that all initial profits from the rights agreement will go directly to the approximately 500 rostered athletes.

"There are some costs associated with running this, but other than those costs, every dime of this deal goes to the fighters," White said. "This isn't a six-year money grab. This is a long-term relationship we've created with Reebok. We're investing in the fighters, they're investing in the sport. It makes all the sense in the world to get the fighters invested in this thing."

The pay structure will allocate funds per fight, based on a tiered ranking system. Champions will receive the largest payment, followed by fighters ranked Nos. 1-5, 6-10, 11-15 and unranked. UFC's official rankings are voted on by media outlets and are overseen by the company. ESPN.com does not vote in the UFC rankings.

"We've done a lot of research over the last two or three years, trying to understand where the open market place is for fighters in various positions," Fertitta said. "Where they're ranked, where they're fighting on the card -- how do sponsors determine [worth]? We feel like we've created a program that will pay them at least as much, and in some cases more than what they are currently making."

The deal gives Reebok group licensing rights that will allow the company to sell fighter branded apparel -- everything from T-shirts to the official uniform, which will be unique to each fighter.

"We went to a UFC event in Montreal and all the Georges St. Pierre fans were wearing Montreal Canadiens jerseys and we thought 'There has to be an opportunity here,'" Fertitta said.

In addition to per-fight payouts, UFC fighters will receive 20 percent of any merchandise sold with their name or likeness. According to Fertitta, that will include currently retired fighters who inspire customized lines.

"They will receive royalties on apparel sold," Fertitta said. "Certainly that would include for the rest of their life, so it becomes a revenue stream for them. There are plans to bring back 'legends of the sport' -- guys that are already retired. We will create kits for them."

The deal will also mark the end of fighter banners in the UFC -- which are traditionally carried to the Octagon by an athlete's cornermen and hung behind them during introductions. Cornermen also will be required to wear Reebok.

The UFC may still negotiate event sponsors, which would receive key advertisement placement on fighter uniforms during a specific event. White stated the number of event sponsors in such capacity would never exceed one.

"The reason we're doing this is to continue to do things and implement things to elevate the level of the sport and really take it in a place where other major league sports are," Fertitta said.

"This is no different than any other major sport. You can't just run onto the field or basketball court with whatever sponsors you want. It just doesn't work that way and we're now at that level."

Uniforms will be mostly standardized but should allow for individualism, according to Fertitta.

Reebok is expected to unveil numerous designs for fighters to choose from in the spring.

The deal gives Reebok, a subsidiary of Adidas, a bigger stake in what it calls the tough fitness business. In recent years, it has associated itself with CrossFit and Spartan races.

Reebok president Matt O'Toole said Tuesday that the company believes there are 35 million people training like a fighter.

Aside from outfitting fighters, Reebok is creating a whole line of shoes and apparel for this sector.

ESPN.com's Darren Rovell contributed to this report.