Baseball, football, basketball and hockey have danced around it since the 1970s. Now, profit-minded autograph hounds have also become an issue in mixed martial arts.
One well-known female fighter told fans via Twitter recently that she would no longer be signing through the mail because she felt she was being taken advantage of by those who were simply hoping to flip her generosity for a profit on eBay or via sale to a dealer.
Miesha Tate, who has several popular unclothed photos of herself in the marketplace, says she saw photos she’s signed being sold in a Las Vegas MMA store for $150 and decided to end her practice of responding to requests.
MMA fans have seen a market for autographs explode in recent years, with dealers and collectors jostling for position outside hotels, gyms and fight venues, just like they do in spring training or NFL camps. Some fighters are accommodating while others have become jaded and refuse to stop and sign.
While most athletes don’t want to disappoint fans and collectors who simply want an autograph and a hello, many aren’t fond of dealers who ask them to sign multiple copies of the same thing, knowing it’s strictly a for profit venture. Some aren’t willing to try and differentiate between the two groups.
Like athletes in other sports, UFC stars have private signing arrangements with dealers who pay them a certain fee to sign items, which are then sold to the public. Some now expect to be paid for their signature because so many wind up being sold. It’s disappointing for long-time fans who remember when the sport was just a blip on the radar and athletes were happy to sign wherever and whenever they were asked.
Many fighters have paid deals in place with Topps, which produces cards sets for UFC that contain their autographs.
MMA Junkie talked with fighters, collectors and dealers about the autograph game and the UFC.