Rising MMA star signs major new sponsorship deal

Anyone with lingering doubts as to whether MMA in general and the UFC in particular is a sport to be taken seriously had their question answered this week with the news of a sponsorship deal that is the biggest indicator yet that MMA is entering the mainstream.


Over the past couple of years, the UFC has enjoyed growing exposure across the UK and Ireland, thanks to its major TV deal with BT Sport. Now, one of the fastest growing online sectors has teamed up with the fastest growing sport for what many see as a marriage made in heaven.


A new kind of fighter


Liverpool based Tim Barnett does not follow the typical MMA fighter profile. The 27 year old looks slight of build, speaks thoughtfully and intelligently on issues such as nutrition and veganism, and keeps the tattoos to a minimum.


Yet looks can be deceptive, and the former boxer has carved out a reputation as a force to be reckoned with. Since becoming pro in early 2016, he is unbeaten, with a five fight winning streak. Online casino giant Fruity King has been quick to see the commercial potential in the UFC, and the role Barnett will play in its continued development. You can see full details if you check out the official sponsorship announcement on the casino’s website.


The ideal pairing


Online betting, both in the conventional sense of casino games and in the broader sports world has gained in popularity as quickly as MMA over the past few years. It is a pastime that has truly captured the imagination, particularly with the rise in mobile technology and the ability to play online slots and casino games via smartphones and tablets.


But this is not the only reason that Fruity King and Tim Barnett make such a compelling partnership. Barnett is very much a man of his time, and embraces all that the technological era has on offer.


While many of his contemporaries spend every spare moment mouthing off to the press about their next fight, leading to the kind of unedifying scenes witnessed between Conor McGregor and Floyd Maywether last week, Barnett takes a different approach.


He prefers to spend time online, engaging with his growing fanbase via social media. And his favourite topics for discussion have nothing to do with the damage he plans to inflict on his next opponent. Instead, he chooses to spread the word about his passion for veganism, and to share tips and advice on how vegans can stay healthy and plan a nutritious diet – even if they are top athletes.


The approach is a new one, but it works, and it potentially redefines what it means to be a successful sporting hero in the 21st century. The indications are that Fruity King has chosen its collaborator wisely. The real tester will be to see whether future MMA stars follow in Barnett’s footsteps. Tomorrow’s heroes of MMA could be very different creatures to the ultra aggressive alpha males of the 20th century.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie