By Dane McGuire
January 27 marked a historic day for the UFC and MMA as a whole. After first being reported by ESPN, the UFC confirmed it signed Bella Mir, daughter of former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, as an ambassador through the it’s first NIL deal.
As explained in the official UFC statement:
“In 2021, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved an interim name, image and likeness (NIL) policy. This policy was updated in 2022 and allows all NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III student-athletes to be compensated for their NIL.”
More specifically, ESPN notes, “NIL deals, which were first allowed by the NCAA in July 2021, afford college athletes the ability make money on things like endorsements, social media posts and public appearances. All of those things had been previously prohibited by the NCAA.”
Bella Mir, 20, is currently a freshman wrestler at the University of Iowa and a 3-0 pro in MMA.
“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 in a statement.
“… 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.”
On a larger scale, MMA Fighting reports the UFC in December the University of Iowa announced that the UFC had signed a sponsorship deal to support both the men’s and women’s wrestling programs.
This does not mean Mir is set to compete in the UFC due to this deal, but that does appear likely in the future. Mir currently fights at flyweight and has two first-round submissions.
“I’m super grateful and I honestly couldn’t be more thankful to [UFC President] Dana [White] and UFC for giving me this opportunity,” Bella Mir said in a press release statement. “I’m going to make sure I do my best to represent UFC and show the world what I’m all about.”
The UFC statement points out Mirwas named the 2022 Female Fighter of the Year by UFC FIGHT PASS®, the world’s leading digital subscription service for combat sports.
At this time it is unknown if the UFC will sign more college athletes to NIL deals. By comparison, WWE has signed 30 athletes over that last two years including Olympic wrestling gold medalist Gable Steveson, the first WWE NIL signee in September 2021 per ESPN.