How Would Reebok Have Done As A Sponsor of MMA Between 1979-1983?

By Dave Madden @DaveMMAdden

With the endorsement deal between the UFC and Reebok dating back to the summer of 2015, coupled with background knowledge of repeated negligence in Reebok’s proofreading department, it’s a struggle to imagine a blossoming bond lasting as long as it has during the years 1979-1983. For those questioning the possibility of mixed martial arts and Reebok collaborating over thirty-plus years ago, you must be operating from the UFC’s broken record account of MMA’s beginnings: UFC 1 in Denver, Colorado on November 12, 1993. Truth is, CV Productions planted the seed of MMA in Western Pennsylvania and nurtured a new form of competition, feeding a line of curiosity in combined fighting: Who is the best of the best?

MMA is the sport of the 21st century: WOW Promotions popularized it, SEG Entertainment refined it; Zuffa LLC monetized it, but CV Productions created it. (p. 16)

Godfathers of MMA: The Birth of An American Sport (2014) by Dr. Fred Adams and Bill Viola Jr. is a time capsule to the first MMA promotion in the United States and includes: a collection of anecdotes from Frank Caliguri and Bill Viola Sr., otherwise known as the ‘Godfathers,’ and quotes ripped out of publications during this brief span in sporting history, when MMA, unbeknownst to anyone, was alive and well.

Screen shot of Godfathers of MMA p. 158

The timing would have been perfect for CV Productions and Reebok to pump up a connection. In the same year Viola and Caliguri reached the ore of a new sport while sitting in a booth at Denny’s, a deal was negotiated for Reebok’s distribution across the United States. Instead of the fighters in CV Productions suiting up in a hodgepodge of equipment: headgear, as it was an amateur event, open-fingered gloves manufactured by Jhoon Rhee, and whatever workout attire best reflected 1979-1983, the guys could have adorned Fight Kits tagged with Reebok’s logo.

Should of. Could of. After reading Godfathers of MMA, a reader can safely infer that it never would of. Since the marriage of the UFC and Reebok, the numerous blunders displayed would have boiled the area surrounding “The Steel City” down to liquid metallic rage. Take note of some of the stand out errors that worked their way past the editor’s desk:

Giblert Melendez is not found on the UFC’s roster, but there is a Gilbert Melendez.
If you are trying to cram the word flexibility on your license plate, this would work.
Jiu-Jitsu looks considerably different than how it’s depicted on the shirt.
Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 6.21.33 AM
There is more to Ireland than meets the eye.

Godfathers of MMA sets readers in a scene where Caliguri and Viola Sr. orchestrate the promotion of one of their events. Without the Internet, information in this era of MMA circulated by way of plastering walls and telephone poles with posters. Meticulously, Caliguri and Viola Sr. zeroed in on the many facets involved in operating a fight promotion with precision, except in one particular instance.

The posters bolstering interest of an upcoming tournament contained a misprint of one competitor’s name. When the fighter realized his name was spelled incorrectly, he restrained none of his outrage, detailed in Godfathers of MMA as:

Caliguri recalls, “After we got the first batch [of posters] printed with pictures of the local fighters, I got a frantic phone call from the printer. He said, ‘There’s some crazy guy here ready to tear the place apart because he says we spelled his name wrong on the Tough Man Poster! Please tell him it wasn’t my fault!’” (p. 89)

As humorous as it is to imagine Giblert Melendez going on a similar rampage in these days, a counterstrike to grammatical oversight has faded into the history books. Instead, in a sport where the names of fighters act as catalysts to their branding, the current mood met with the lackluster performances of Reebok mimics a simple shrug of the shoulders and understood promises to try harder in the future. It’s a stretch to imagine CV Productions continuing their partnership with Reebok beyond their first event.

Check out my complete review of Godfathers of MMA to see the development of MMA a decade before the UFC:

Pick up a copy of Godfathers of MMA for yourself at:



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