If Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is trying to maintain his image as “The People’s Champion,” he is not doing a good job with his latest endeavor. The former football player-turned-wrestler-turned-actor recently announced that his new shoe is partnering with the Ultimate Fighting Championships. However, although the fighters have to wear the shoes, they aren’t getting paid for the promotion.
In late August, the UFC announced that Project Rock, the performance brand created by “The Rock,” launched its first-ever co-branded footwear, the Project Rock x UFC BSR 2 and Project Rock Slides.
Work ethic & legacy are the pillars of all @UFC athletes.
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) August 30, 2022
The BSR 2 is a training shoe engineered for those who walk the walk, providing multiple performance benefits and supposedly embodying the philosophy at the heart of Project Rock, “Be Humble, Be Hungry and always Be The Hardest Worker in the Room.”
The BSR 2 and Project Rock Slides were provided to all athletes as part of their official fight kits, beginning with “UFC Fight Night 209: Gane vs. Tuivasa” on Sept. 3. However, unlike past apparel deals like Reebok, fighters reportedly receive no additional compensation for wearing the products.
“The men and women warriors of UFC compete in their iconic octagon with pride, purpose, passion, intensity and MANA,” Dwayne “The Rock,” Johnson said via statement. “Legacy is a very important word to me, and our Project Rock is proud to deliver training gear to help support and fuel all UFC athletes who seek to establish their own impactful legacy in UFC and beyond.”
However, not everyone is feeling what The Rock is cooking.
What they didn’t show in the interview pic.twitter.com/QdpwmMkizn
— Mokoflama (@mokoflama) September 10, 2022
“These shoes f*cking suck,” Nate Diaz said in an official UFC interview during fight week for UFC 279. He held the shoe toward the camera and became the ultimate disrespectful champion. “Look at these shoes. They made me put this sh*t on. F-ck these shoes.”
Additionally, UFC lightweight Terrance McKinney took a polite shot at The Rock on Twitter, appealing to his compassionate side.
Hey brotha @TheRock if you’re a fan of what we do make the deal favorable for the ones modeling your shoe I get it’s not your fault or your business doin it to us but show us the love you think you are. Get in our corner and support us 🙏🏾
— Terrance ‘T Wrecks’ McKinney (@twrecks155) September 14, 2022
“Hey brotha @TheRock if you’re a fan of what we do make the deal favorable for the ones modeling your shoe,” McKinney tweeted. “I get it’s not your fault or your business doin it to us, but show us the love you think you are. Get in our corner and support us.”
According to reports, the UFC also requires its fighters to do extra media obligations for Johnson’s media company, Seven Bucks.
Unlike other sports, fighters in the UFC and, in general, usually have layers of protection like players unions. Without one, apparel partnerships with the UFC like Project Rock were not collectively bargained with the fighters leaving them open to abuse in the relationship. Fighters know that if they do not comply, as the UFC has directly tied its request of the fighters into the Promotional Guideline Compliance program as required media duties, they won’t get far up the ladder in their fighting career.
In past deals with Reebok, the fighters were paid a flat sum on fight week for adhering to outfitting policies and subsequent promotional duties. They were compensated in a tiered structure based on their number of fights with the UFC with a pay scale based on if they were a champion or a challenger.
With no additional payment from the new Project Rock partnership, fighters are not feeling The Rock, who looks like he is benefitting from the athletes’ literal blood, sweat, and tears.
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