$100 million – UFC lands their biggest ever sponsorship deal

UFC star Conor McGregor in 2015. | Marcelo Cortes / Fotoarena, IMAGO

It looks like the days of Modelo in the UFC have come to an end. Once the space of Mickey’s Malt Liquor, the UFC started their first partnership with Anheuser-Busch back in 2008, signaling an end to their time with Milwaukee’s favorite “fine malt liquor with a full body.”

After nearly more than a decade, however, the UFC and Bud Light parted ways, making room for Modelo to take the spot as official beer of the UFC. If fans felt that the beer “brewed for those with a fighting spirit,” was the kind of partnership that would run on forever, it only took what’s being hailed as “the biggest sponsorship deal in UFC history” to bring the Modelo era to a close.

UFC signs new $100M deal with Anheuser-Busch

Bud Light is back on the menu, boys. That’s following an announcement from the world’s largest MMA promotion, through their broadcast partner, ESPN. Sources close to the company told Yahoo Sports that the deal carries a value “in excess of $100 million,” making it the largest sponsorship deal in the promotion’s history

“Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light were UFC’s original beer sponsors more than fifteen years ago,” UFC CEO Dana White said in a statement. “I’m proud to announce we are back in business together. There are many reasons why I chose to go with Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light, most importantly because I feel we are very aligned when it comes to our core values and what the UFC brand stands for. I’m looking forward to all of the incredible things we will do in the years ahead.”

The multi-year partnership will reportedly include prominent branding for Bud Light not only on UFC events, but also on the Contender Series.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - 03 20 2015: WEIGHING UFC RIO MAIA X LAFLARE - Press conference with UFC President Dana White, the featherweight champion Jose Aldo UFC and the challenger Conor McGregor during Weighing Maia UFC Rio X Laflare held in Maracanazinho. PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxBRA MarceloxCortes
Marcelo Cortes, Fotoarena, IMAGO

AB InBev trying to reclaim demographic

The decision to strike up a partnership with the UFC comes on the heels of a tumultuous couple years for Anheuser-Busch (AB InBev), most notably after experiencing a massive wave of reactionary backlash for their partnership with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Mulvaney’s brief campaign in partnership with AB InBev public calls for a boycott of the company within conservative media circles. Bud Light sales reportedly fell by 26% following the outcry.

In response to the backlash, the beverage giant quickly distanced itself from Mulvaney, dropping their partnership and public support for the influencer. A move that inspired a whole new boycott movement from the LGBTQ+ community.

“For months now, I’ve been scared to leave my house,” Mulvaney told fans in a video posted to social media. “I have been ridiculed in public. I’ve been followed, and I have felt a loneliness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

In a recent article for the Sports Business Journal, sports media & marketing consultant Tony Ponturo outlined why he felt that AB InBev had returned to the UFC with such a lucrative new partnership deal.

“They are trying to get traction with their core consumer and stabilize (share),” Ponturo explained. “They are losing shelf space, and this is an attempt to reclaim some of that. Back then, and now, this is a square shot at grabbing those 21-34 male drinkers.”

Dana White trying to keep UFC ‘anti-woke’

Despite a clear willingness to go wherever the wind blows them with celebrations of Black History, the LGBTQ+ community, and Mexican heritage, Dana White has crafted a vision of himself as a man whose ideology can’t be bought.

“We don’t do anything woke over here,” the UFC CEO told Fox News in an April 2023 interview.

Most recently the UFC boss tried to bring flags back to the Octagon as well, telling a group of reporters “Flags are back. If any flags hurt your feelings, too f—g bad.”

It only took another two weeks and a trip to Abu Dhabi for flags to be banned once again. Still, that kind of hardline rhetoric seems like exactly what Anheuser-Busch wants their Bud Light brand to cozy up to right now. Especially since, as it happens, AB InBev is responsible for distributing Modelo everywhere around the world except the US. It could be said that this new deal for the UFC amounts to little more than a label swap.

MMA: UFC 179-Aldo vs Mendez Oct 25, 2014; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; General view of the ring prior to UFC 179 at Ginasio do Maracanazinho. Rio de Janeiro Ginasio do Maracanazinho Brazil, EDITORIAL USE ONLY PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY 8162662
Jason Silva / USA TODAY Network, IMAGO

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About the author

Zane Simon


Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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