Eugene Bareman and Israel Adesanya speak to the media. Photos / Photosport
The dispute between UFC and New Zealand Rugby over the use of silver fern in Kiwi fighters kits has been resolved quickly, with miscommunication at its heart.
Eugene Bareman, who coaches six UFC fighters including Israeli middleweight champion Adesanya at City Kickboxing in Auckland, said the UFC had been contacted over trademark issues surrounding the use of a silver fern design that appeared on UFC fighters’ pre-fight sleeves and hoodies.
“The UFC banned us from using silver ferns because they had been contacted by the All Blacks and asked not to use them because they had a trademark,” said Bareman.
“The UFC called me and said we were changing the symbol,” said Bareman. “They said ‘how are you, Eugene?’ It’s a great day, we’ll just change the symbol on your sleeve that you wear 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, no matter where you are from.
“This is very important to us. It is something we represent.”
Rugby New Zealand denied the claims in a brief statement, saying they had no contact with the UFC regarding the use of the logo, while representatives from All Blacks contacted City Kickboxing to clear things up after Bareman and UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya commented on the matter.
The matter was quickly resolved, with City Kickboxing releasing another statement in the afternoon.
“The problem has been resolved,” the statement confirmed. “All Blacks management were contacted this afternoon to let them know that no one on their legal or management team has had any contact with the UFC.
“It appears there has been a miscommunication between the UFC and the attorney from the same law firm that safeguarded the All Blacks trademark rights.
“The All Blacks have been very friendly in this situation and assured us that they are very supportive of our UFC New Zealand team and other New Zealand sports teams that go abroad and that is exciting for us.
“We also want to reiterate that we are staunch supporters of the All Blacks and what they are doing for our country.
“We are pleased to say that we will walk into the stables as proud Kiwis with silver ferns on our shoulders, as we have for the last five years.”
Bareman has previously acknowledged that the image the UFC used was probably a copy and paste of the All Blacks, but said if that was the case, the image could be redesigned rather than replaced.
The timing of the complaint is odd, considering the UFC has been using the image on their New Zealand fighting kit since 2015.
The UFC has yet to comment on the situation.