LIHUE — For bar owner Jody Valente, this weekend may be his last opportunity to get an Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder to wear his logo.
“I hope that we finally have the chance to win a title and get a photo of our athlete with our logo and the UFC belt for millions of people to witness across the world,” said Valente, owner of Kalapaki Joe’s, in a phone interview. “We’ve been branding and sponsoring a lot of their fighters for years, but this is our last chance to win the title with Kalapaki Joe’s as a sponsor.”
UFC 184 will take place Saturday in Los Angeles. The night will feature a full card of bouts, with two women’s bouts billed as its main event and co-main event, and Kalapaki Joe’s sponsors a fighter in each match.
The Kauai-based sport bar chain sponsors undefeated challenger Cat Zingano of Colorado, who will battle the current UFC women’s 135-pound bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in the evening’s main event.
“We’re officially going to be part of UFC history,” Valente said. “To be represented by the main event and co-main event athletes, I’m excited.”
The occasion will mark the third time that a Kalapaki Joe’s sponsored fighter has challenged for a UFC championship, according to Valente.
The local company also sponsors UFC women’s bantamweight contender Raquel Pennington, who will fight Holly Helm in the co-main event.
“Both of these fighters, it’s been going on over a year being involved with them,” Valente said about sponsoring Zingano and Pennington. “This event, being both the main event and the co-main event headlined by women fighters, is the first time for the UFC, it’s never happened.”
UFC announced in December the fighting company struck a deal with athletic goods producer Reebok as its exclusive outfitter and apparel provider.
With the deal, however, UFC’s athletes will no longer be allowed to wear outside sponsor logos during official events, including fight night, according to the release.
Valente said the UFC fighters will begin wearing the new “uniforms” in July, which means this weekend will be one of a few last chances for the Kalapaki Joe’s logo to appear inside the octagon.
Though the move is disappointing to him as a sponsor, Valente said it’s necessary for the league and mix-martial arts to continue to move upwards.
“It’s evolution for the sport and it’s a good thing,” he said. “I’m bummed because we can’t participate in it as heavily as we have been, but it’s a right move for the sport.”