Mike Pokutylowicz from FighterXFashion writes about the history of Nike in MMA.
Now that Nike has decided to step inside the cage with the signing of Jon “Bones” Jones to a global sponsorship deal, it’s time to take a look at which other pro fighters have been (or currently are being) sponsored by the Swoosh. The Jon Jones Nike deal provides proof that Mixed Martial Arts is gaining mainstream acceptance and worldwide appeal. Why else would the athletic apparel giant decide to get involved? But while we wait to see what’s in the works with the “Bones Knows” signature line, here’s a look at a few other fighters who’ve been linked to Nike over the past few years. With superstars like Jon Jones and Anderson Silva currently signed to the Swoosh, this leaves us asking ourselves – who’s next?
Nike x Jon “Bones” Jones
Earlier this month word spread like wildfire that Nike signed Jon Jones to a global sponsorship deal. Although originally scheduled to outfit Jonny Bones from head-to-toe for his match against Dan Henderson at UFC 151, it looks like we’ll now have to wait until Jones faces Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 before we see the UFC light heavyweight champ sporting the Swoosh inside and around the Octagon. The global sponsorship deal with Jones is a good sign that the athletic apparel giant is looking to get more involved in MMA as the sport continues to gain mainstream acceptance. This sort of endorsement deal will most likely put “Bones” at the top of the sports marketing spectrum with his image alongside the likes of fellow Nike superstars like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods. Word has it a line of Jon Jones signature apparel and footwear is also in the works, starting off with the limited edition Nike “Bones Knows” T-shirt that surfaced just a few days ago.
Nike x Anderson Silva
Before news broke that Jon “Bones” Jones was the first MMA fighter to get a global endorsement deal from Nike, Anderson Silva was rocking the Swoosh inside the Octagon with a Nike sponsorship deal of his own. Although the UFC middleweight champion has still yet to sign a global deal like Jones, Silva’s regional sponsorship by Nike Brazil led to the “Spider” sporting the Swoosh during walkouts and war at UFC 148 and UFC 134. Silva’s sponsorship deal with Nike was made public back in August 2011 when Nike teased the world with the “Face Off” viral video right before he battled Yushin Okami at UFC 134. The 30-second clip featured nothing but the champ glaring silently for 30 seconds with a simple Swoosh on his chest – and the message was pretty clear.
Silva’s connection to Nike was then taken to the next level at UFC 148 when he wore the Nike Pro Combat Fight Shorts inside the Octagon for his match against Chael Sonnen. Shortly thereafter, teaser pics of Nike Anderson Silva apparel popped up, with the “Spider” giving us a preview of his “Silva Knows” T-shirt. Will we ever see Anderson’s own Nike signature line emerge? As of now, nothing has been confirmed, but we surely hope this is a sign of things to come.
Nike x Caol Uno
You might be familiar with Japanese MMA fighter Caol Uno for his notable career in Shooto, UFC, DREAM and K-1, but did you know Uno also had a collaboration line with Nike Japan at one point? Throughout 2009 and 2010 the Nike 10AC collaboration line spawned several seasonal collections including sportswear and streetwear inspired by the Japanese fighter’s personal style. The 10AC (Caol spelled backwards) collection included some great looking sportswear that unfortunately never hit the North American market, including sweatshirts, sweatpants, tees, shorts, jackets, and Nike footwear. Missed out on all of the action along the way? Check out a few of the apparel and footwear styles from past seasons below. For a closer look at the collections from 2009 and 2010, take a trip back and revisit the Nike 10AC clothing and footwear seasonal lines, which unfortunately don’t seem to be around anymore.
Nike x Rampage Jackson
Despite never wearing the Swoosh inside the cage, Rampage Jackson did appear in a Nike commercial back in 2010 alongside several other athletes including Lance Armstrong, LaDainian Tomlinson, Maria Sharapova and others. The 60-second “Human Chain” spot only featured Rampage for a few seconds, but that was more than enough to turn heads and get fight fans talking. Although we never saw Jackson appear in any other Nike marketing campaigns after that, his short stint in the Nike “Human Chain” commercial proved that MMA was quickly gaining traction as a mainstream sport in 2010, with Rampage seen as a top face in the sport. Didn’t catch the commercial from a couple of years ago? Check it out here.
Nike x Yoshihiro Akiyama
Before Yoshihiro Akiyama entered the Octagon for the first time at UFC 100, Nike also featured the popular Japanese fighter known as “Sexyama” in one of their marketing campaigns on a regional level. Although he wasn’t sponsored by the Swoosh when he made his Octagon debut against Alan Belcher back in July 2009, Akiyama was featured at one point in a Nike commercial and marketing campaign as witnessed below.
With some of the sport’s biggest names currently signed to the Swoosh, one can only wonder what lies ahead. More Nike fighter sponsorships? Other top athletic brands getting involved? In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait and see what transpires from the Jon Jones and Anderson Silva endorsement deals – then find out what else is in the works as the sport of Mixed Martial Arts continues to grow globally. If one thing’s for certain, it’s a pretty good sign that competition in the fight fashion biz is about to pick up.
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