Nate Quarry just signed a sponsorship deal with athletic shoe company And1. Sort of.
The UFC middleweight and the company known for its flashy basketball kicks and even flashier streetball tapes, agreed to a multi-fight deal starting with Quarry's bout with Demian Maia at UFC 91.
The catch? Fighters don't wear shoes. Even if they are the same ones Monta Ellis and Steve Blake wear.
And1 will be one of two primary sponsors for Quarry, with a logo on his fight shorts and octagon signage, along with Nuvasive, the medical company which developed the spinal fusion procedure that saved his fighting career.
"On paper it almost makes no sense whatsoever. I can't wear basketball shoes into the octagon," Quarry said with a laugh. "But And1 believes it's great exposure for their overall brand. They are big fans of the sport and the whole company is excited about it."
The deal came about partly because of Quarry's friendship with NBA player Steve Blake, an And1 athlete and guard for the Portland Trail Blazers.
A friendly conversation with Blake about Quarry's lack of sponsors turned into a golden networking opportunity. Blake spoke with Rod Keller, the director of brand and sports marketing for And1 and a longtime martial arts follower, Keller spoke with Quarry and, TA-DA!, a deal is made. Talk about having friends in high places.
"Certainly, this is a basketball brand, but we have to be willing to throw traditional logic out the door and capitalize on opportunities," Keller said. "More and more athletes like Steve Blake train with MMA training methods. It's a phenomenal workout. So is there a correlation to basketball? Yes. Is it logical? No."
Keller said it's not certain if And1 will move into the MMA apparel world, but added that the company does own multiple brands and could use the Quarry sponsorship as a platform to develop an MMA line if they decide on entering the market. He also noted that the company will likley sponsor more fighters in the future, taking it on a case-by-case basis.
- Hoops company And1 to sponsor UFC's Quarry (NBC.com)