Jones' UFC deal not bias, insists manager

ESPN staff
April 18, 2012

Jon 'Bones' Jones' manager has dismissed claims of bias after it was revealed that the UFC light-heavyweight champion will enter the Octagon on Saturday wearing UFC-branded clothing.

Jones has agreed a deal to wear various clothing items branded with the UFC logo both in the build-up to and during his title defence against friend-turned-rival Rashad Evans this weekend, a move that has led some to speculate that the fighter is being shown favouritism by the organisation.

However, Jones' manager Malki Kawa has insisted that simply is not the case - revealing that Evans too could be in the same clothing if his team had opted to go down that route.

"I don't think that anybody is favouring anybody," Kawa told MMAJunkie. "They're not that type of guys, at all. It's not like that. My experience with them has been that they're as fair across the board.

"From what I understand, [heavyweight] Alistair Overeem is going to be wearing UFC gear as well. Overeem's manager is Rashad's manager. It's not like Rashad's manager didn't have the opportunity to put Rashad in it.

"I'm sure if Rashad had wanted to wear UFC gear, they'd have been happy to put him in it, too. It was just our decision to do what we wanted to do."

Kawa revealed that the decision to take on UFC 'sponsorship', rather than arrange a deal with a recognised MMA brand, was in order to retain the possibility of reaching a landmark sponsorship deal with a major sportswear brand in the near future.

"Jon went on the record and said he has a vision and a goal of being sponsored by Nike," Kawa noted. "So when we were doing our marketing strategy, talking about what route to go, we figured that as opposed to doing something with an MMA sponsor and jeopardising a potential deal with Nike or Adidas or Reebok or Under Armour, we would pass on the endemic sponsors that are in MMA right now. That was really how it happened.

"The UFC didn't contact us and say, 'Hey, we're interested in putting Jon in our shirts and shorts. Let's get into a bidding war.' That's not what happened. It's nothing like that. It was our decision to not go in with any other sponsors."

Kawa indicated Jones' camp are following a similar blueprint to middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who eventually agreed a relatively unprecedented deal with Under Armor. Kawa expects Jones to seal an even more high-profile arrangement if Jones manages to beat Evans this weekend.

"I can pretty much bank on the fact that with a victory this Saturday, by the end of the year Jon will be sporting a major shoe company's brand," Kawa said. "Whether it's Nike, Under Armor, Reebok or Adidas, one of those four companies will be on Jon Jones.

"From the conversations I've had with numerous different people and things that we have going on on our end, it's going to happen. Jon's going to be that guy."

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