Crypto.com will be UFC’s first-ever global fight kit partner, meaning its branding will appear on the uniform of every UFC fighter who steps into the octagon. The partnership begins this weekend, when Conor McGregor, the world’s highest-paid athlete, faces Dustin Poirier in Las Vegas.
It’s the latest partnership between a sports entity and the rapidly growing world of cryptocurrency investing, which has gained prominence and popularity during the pandemic. The Miami Heat, for example, recently announced a long-term partnership with FTX.us (the crypto exchange also bought naming rights to the team’s arena). The Montreal Canadiens, NFL quarterback Trevor Lawrence and MLB are others that have signed deals in the industry.
“If we had talked a couple of years ago, crypto might not have been on the radar, but it’s sort of a sign of the times,” said UFC COO Lawrence Epstein, who declined to comment on the terms of the deal. “It’s new, but it’s moving quickly, and it’s very dynamic.”
UFC was one of the first major U.S. sports to resume holding events during the pandemic, and it finished 2020 having held 41 of its 42 scheduled events. In March it signed a five-year, $100 million partnership with DraftKings (that deal included a commitment to spend an additional $250 million in marketing DraftKings’s UFC products), and this weekend will be its fourth straight pay-per-view event in an arena at 100% capacity.
That’s critical for Endeavor, UFC’s parent, which went public in April. UFC has returned to being a high cash flow business at a time when the wider sports and entertainment industry remains largely constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Endeavor announced in March that it was raising money to buy the 49.9% of UFC that it didn’t already own).
Epstein said that while there’s overlap between MMA fans and crypto enthusiasts, UFC was particularly drawn to the overall demo of Crypto.com users.
“In general, that consumer is younger, and based upon the data that we’ve seen, that consumer also has a fair amount of discretionary income,” he said. “It’s an attractive group to try to get interested in your product.”
As part of the deal, Crypto.com has committed to also working with individual UFC athletes, Lawrence said. That’s similar to bigger promotion-wide deals with Modelo (Amanda Nunes, Brian Ortega) and Guaranteed Rate (Poirier, Rose Namajunas).
In addition to the fight kits, Crypto.com will be visible on the apparel fighters wear in their walk-outs, and in the clothing of people in their corner. It will appear on the octagon canvas during all PPV events and during Dana White’s Contender Series, and it will be integrated into UFC’s broadcasts and social channels.
Crypto.com, founded in 2016, currently has more than 10 million users worldwide. Its sports portfolio include the Canadiens, Formula One and a partnership with Italy’s Serie A.