UFC: New Zealand Rugby and UFC clash over silver fern imagery

A dispute has broken out between the UFC and New Zealand Rugby, with the use of the silver fern on the kit of Kiwi fighters under the gun.

Eugene Bareman, who trains six UFC fighters including middleweight champion Israel Adesanya at City Kickboxing in Auckland, revealed the UFC had been contacted over trademark issues around the use of the silver fern design that appears on the sleeves of UFC fighters’ pre-fight shirts and hoodies.

“The UFC is stopping us from using the silver fern because they have been contacted by the All Blacks and asked not to use it because it has been trademarked,” Bareman alleged.

“The UFC called me up and said we’re changing the symbol,” Bareman said. “They said ‘how it’s going, Eugene?’ It’s a great day, we’re just going to change that symbol on your sleeves that you wear out to battle’.

“We wear it on our uniform, we wear it with great pride, and it doesn’t matter whether you were born in Nigeria or Samoa, it doesn’t matter where you come from.

“It’s very important to us. It’s something that we represent.”

The timing of the complaint is strange, given the UFC have been using the image on their New Zealand fight kits since 2015

Bareman admitted the image the UFC use could possibly be a copy-and-paste of that of the All Blacks, but said if that was the case the image could be redesigned rather than replaced.

Adesanya called the situation “petty” and referred to the famous Halberg Awards acceptance speech he made last year when he called out New Zealand’s tall poppy syndrome.

“It seems so petty. Just refer back to the speech I had at the Halbergs, listen to it again if it didn’t sink in the first time,” said Adesanya, who was named New Zealand’s sportsman of the year at the 2020 awards.

“We’re not making any money from having the fern on our logo, it doesn’t generate me any money. But the issue that’s behind it, it’s what we fought for.

“I hope the boys on the field, the boys on the front line actually back us as well on this, rather than just the suits trying to do their little thing.”

New Zealand Rugby disputed the claims in a short statement, saying they had not had any contact with the UFC around the use of logos, while a representative of the All Blacks got in touch with City Kickboxing to clear things up after Bareman and Adesanya’s comments.

“We’re really heartened to have been contacted by the All Blacks really quickly this afternoon, who have informed us that no one from their legal team or management team has been in contact with the UFC,” a statement from City Kickboxing read.

“They’ve reassured us that they’re very much supporters of New Zealand team and New Zealand sports going overseas and that’s heartening for us. We also want to reiterate that we’re absolutely ardent supporters of the All Blacks and what they do for our country.”

The UFC are yet to comment on the situation, but are expected to do so later today.

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