Mir will represent the UFC while studying and competing for the University of Iowa.
Could this be the new face of UFC talent development? For years, the world’s largest MMA promotion has taken something of a catch as catch can approach to finding new fighters. Whether it’s poaching champs from other smaller organizations, targeting talent on the rise from notable camps, depending on managers to curate prospects, or holding try-out shows like the Ultimate Fighter and Dana White’s Contender Series, most athletes only tend to get to the UFC after proving themselves to the promotion in other arenas.
On occasion the UFC has also run talent development programs like their ‘combine’ events to identify potential fighters to watch for the future. But, this could be a more significant way for the Endeavor-owned company to headhunt talent early in their careers.
“Bella was destined to become a member of the UFC family her entire life, and I’m proud that she’s making history as our first NIL ambassador in one of the best programs at the University of Iowa,” UFC president Dana White said, via press release. “She’s a four-time state high school wrestling champion who has won jiu-jitsu tournaments and three professional MMA fights before turning 19. Bella is an incredible role model for young women who are not only looking to get into sports, but also pursue their dreams. She’s on another level, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.”
We’re happy to announce Bella Mir as the UFC’s first ever NIL ambassador!
Mir is currently a freshman at the University of Iowa (@TheIowaHawkeyes) and a member of @IowaW_Wrestling ♀️ pic.twitter.com/7JCEQd1WqT
— UFC (@ufc) January 27, 2023
‘Name, Image, Likeness’ deals have become a noted trend in college athletics, following the NCAA’s recent moves to loosen restrictions on how amateur athletes can leverage their celebrity into money-making opportunities into things like sponsorship deals and social media influencing. Alongside supporting Mir’s collegiate career, the UFC has also signed an independent deal with the University of Iowa to sponsor their wrestling programs.
“The partnership between Iowa wrestling and UFC is a perfect fit,” men’s wrestling coach Tom Brands said in a December press 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.”
It’s not at all difficult to imagine White & Co. signing similar deals with other rising stars, not just in wrestling, but possibly in sports like BJJ, judo, or maybe even boxing as a way to start building working relationships with top talent well before they’re ready to make a serious run in mixed martial arts.
“I’m super grateful and I honestly couldn’t be more thankful to [UFC President] Dana [White] and UFC for giving me this opportunity,” Mir revealed. “I’m going to make sure I do my best to represent UFC and show the world what I’m all about.”
Bella Mir is 3-0 as a pro fighter, having last competed at Xtreme Fight Night 381 back in June of last year. After debuting at 137 lbs in 2020, she currently competes in the women’s flyweight division.