UFC to sponsor both Iowa men’s and women’s wrestling programs

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

The Iowa men’s and women’s wrestling programs will now be sponsored by one of the world’s premier mixed martial arts organizations.

The Iowa Athletics Department, in conjunction with its multimedia rights holder Learfield’s Hawkeye Sports Properties, announced Thursday that the Ultimate Fighting Championship will serve as a sponsor for both wrestling programs.

“The partnership between Iowa wrestling and UFC is a perfect fit,” Iowa men’s wrestling coach Tom Brands said in a release. “We both celebrate tough, physical athletes who compete at the highest level.

“There is a bridge between wrestlers and fighters across the two sports. With this agreement, it is even more significant.”

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This is the first college sponsorship for the UFC, the world’s largest MMA promotion company. The deal includes UFC signs inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, advertisements on wrestling radio broadcasts, plus visibility on Iowa’s official social platforms.

The UFC chose Iowa because of the tradition and history of the men’s program, which has led the nation in attendance each year since 2007 and has won 24 NCAA team titles, and to support the first Division I Power 5 women’s wrestling program, which begins competing next season under head coach Clarissa Chun.

“It is significant that UFC selected Iowa and its wrestling programs for a first-of-its-kind sponsorship. We’re extremely appreciative of that support,” Chun said in a release. “Our athletes, and theirs, have a shared bond of training and competing at an elite level.”

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One of Chun’s wrestlers, Bella Mir, has dabbled in MMA, with a 3-0 professional record before joining the Iowa women’s program this fall. She’s also found success in jiu-jitsu, another mixed martial art, in addition to her wrestling career. Her father, Frank Mir, is a two-time UFC heavyweight champ and 16-year MMA veteran.

“We’re proud to support the Iowa Hawkeyes’ men’s and women’s wrestling programs,” Lawrence Epstein, UFC Chief Operating Officer, said in a release. “Many of the best UFC athletes were skilled and experienced collegiate wrestlers.

“Wrestling provides an excellent foundation of athleticism, discipline, determination and respect that is needed to have a successful MMA career. We’re looking forward to seeing the Hawkeyes continue their tradition of excellence and sportsmanship and compete for NCAA championships for many years to come.”

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at@codygoodwin.