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Reebok Blunders Not Easing Friction with Fighters

There are few things more terrifying in this world than a bunch of screaming, angry Irish sports fans. Leave it to Reebok to drop the ball leading into UFC Fight Night 76 on Saturday night in Dublin, Ireland.

The billion dollar sports apparel company came under significant fire from MMA fans Wednesday morning when it released its “UFC Ireland Map” t-shirt ahead of this weekend’s UFC event. All six counties that make up Northern Ireland had been left out on Reebok’s map, leaving only the Republic of Ireland, which Reebok deemed “Ireland.”

BloodyElbow.com was able to snag the caption from the shirt before Reebok took it down from its website:

“Show your UFC territorial allegiance with this UFC Ireland map tee. You know in your soul the best fighters come out of Ireland, and you’re not afraid to scream your pride in the gym or at the Octagon.”

Nothing screams pride like being completely left out.

It was only yesterday that Conor McGregor’s head coach, John Kavanagh, announced an exclusive partnership with Reebok and the SBG fight gym in Ireland. Needless to say, he was hardly thrilled when he caught wind of the recent sales pitch.

The burn from a glob of aftershave being slapped onto a young Kevin McCallister’s face was miniscule compared to the seething fire being spit from thousands of irate fans. Reebok’s Twitter handler had a rough Wednesday morning.

Kevin McCallister (YouTube Screenshot)

Check out some of the fan reaction on Reddit (Warning: NSFW Language).

After upsetting fans and its new business associate, Reebok quickly took the shirt down from the website and offered a sincere apology. According to a tweet from the company, the misrepresentation of Ireland was an unintentional design error.

Kavanagh, who was still obviously bothered by the lapse in judgement, accepted the apology and put the issue to bed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Reebok messed up UFC t-shirts. “Giblert” Melendez is probably still making a fuss over the atrocious spelling on his UFC replica jersey.

Even Tommy Toe Hold had to get in on the fun (Warning: NSFW Language).

This most recent blunder by Reebok isn’t doing the company any favors in mending fences with the MMA community. Many fighters have already voiced their concerns over the dramatic decrease in sponsor payouts. With Reebok now being the exclusive sponsor of the UFC, fighters are no longer allowed to wear outside sponsors.

Sponsorship money is now divvied out in a pyramid system based on number of fights in the UFC. Recently retired UFC fighter Brendan Schaub went from making six figures a fight in sponsorship money to $10,000.

Sara McMann, a contender in the UFC women’s bantamweight division, hinted at “gender inequity” in the UFC’s deal with Reebok. Seeing as women’s MMA hasn’t been around as long in the UFC, most women in the promotion are making $2,500 in sponsorship money.

Among other problems, former UFC welterweight contender Josh Koscheck left the UFC and went to Bellator to avoid having to compete under the Reebok deal.

Reebok’s Sr. Business Unit Director made an appearance on Inside MMA a few months in response to the criticism surrounding the Reebok and UFC partnership:

“There’s certainly going to be bumps in the road and not everybody is going to love what we do and that’s okay. One of things that people look at as a negative point is when there’s a lot of criticism out there. I actually see that as a good thing because it means that there’s a huge, strong, growing base of fans out there that care that this sport is going to be on par with the other ones.

We’ve been able to do a lot of good things in a short period of time, and we feel really good about it. It’s a six year deal at minimum. We’re in this to stay. Our focus is on the product, our focus is on the fighters, our focus is on the coaches and trainers. If we can do that, then we’re going to have success here.”

No matter how problematic, the road to success has to start somewhere.

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