When the word ‘crowdfunding’ comes up, it’s usually in the context of a product being offered up on sites like Kickstarter or Indie Go-Go where entrepreneurs hoping to gain support through the average, everyday person, who wants to get involved at the ground level of a project and help it take flight.
For instance, in 2013 a Kickstarter campaign began to help fund a movie for the cult TV show hit ‘Veronica Mars’ and within days the fundraising effort raised millions of dollars. How about Oculus Rift — a revolutionary virtual reality headset — that gained initial funding on Kickstarter for over $2 million dollars before the company eventually sold to Facebook for a whopping $2 billion dollars.
Crowdfunding took on a new face recently when posters and users of the social networking site Reddit decided to gather together and raise money to sponsor a NASCAR driver. Josh Wise was in need of a sponsor for his car, so the Reddit community raised $55,000 to help fund his needs and get his vehicle taken care of ahead of his race.
The Reddit community also has a presence in the MMA world with a forum where posters go for news, commentary and dicussion when the idea of sponsoring a fighter in the UFC came up. Just like the NASCAR campaign, Reddit users wanted to find a fighter willing to wear their logo for an amount of money that they would pay to feature the site’s logo on a T-shirt or shorts.
It just so happens, UFC middleweight Chris Camozzi is a regular user of Reddit and saw the campaign to sponsor a fighter. He immediately took notice and decided to offer up a spot on his apparel for the upcoming fight he had against Andrew Craig at UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi. But instead of taking the sponsorship money for himself or to pay for his training camp, Camozzi wanted the Reddit users to donate all of the money raised to go to Gabe Santisteven, a young boy stricken with cancer to help pay for his medical bills.
I thought why don’t we work this sponsorship where the guys and girls from Reddit, I’ll wear their logo and in turn they make some donations to Gabe
— Chris Camozzi
"I read Reddit, I read the forums, I read the Underground whenever I have off time, especially about MMA. I’m an MMA addict, I can’t get enough of it still no matter how long I’ve been in the sport. So I saw them talking about wanting to sponsor a UFC fighter, and I thought to myself, ‘This is a good opportunity to work with these guys,’ " Camozzi told FOX Sports. "It’s a cool community, they’re really cool guys, it’s funny, it’s entertaining. I posted on there and this kid Gabe, he’s 9 years old and I met him at a local show here in Colorado that I work with and we’ve raised a little bit of money for him before.
"He’s got brain cancer, he’s had a hell of a time, he’s a tough little kid, and so he’s fighting with cancer and chemotherapy and his mom takes care of him full time. So she’s unable to work right now and medical bills can really stack up. I thought, ‘Why don’t we work this sponsorship where the guys and girls from Reddit, I’ll wear their logo and in turn they make some donations to Gabe?’ "
The sponsorship pool in MMA has seemed rather shallow these days due to a volatile economy, and many fighters have complained about not being paid nearly as much as they were a few years ago despite the sport itself being bigger than ever. Camozzi was one of the fighters who led the charge against sponsors trying to "lowball" athletes by offering a pittance to place a logo on their fight shorts or shirt versus what they actually deserve to be paid.
So when this Reddit sponsorship came up, Camozzi could have easily offered up his services and pocketed the money himself. Instead, as he explains, he wanted to give something back while also proving that crowdfunding is a viable source for fighters looking for a better direction when it comes to sponsorship.
"I’m not rich in anyway, but I’m comfortable. My wife and I are doing well, and it’s just a good opportunity to help this kid. My stance on sponsorships was about low-balling fighters and these companies can afford all this money and they’re offering a couple of hundred bucks to sponsor a guy and they’re taking it, and it’s kind of lowering the bar. If we say ‘No, we’re not going to do it,’ then they are going to be forced to pay more or their company isn’t going to be as recognized," Camozzi said.
Gabe Santisteven, courtesy of Kathleen Santisteven
"I can tell you this, this sponsorship with Reddit has already raised more money than I was offered for my fight shorts and it’s been two days. These guys at Reddit have really come through and it’s just a good opportunity to help them out. I can afford to do that right now. I would always like to make more money, but I’d rather see this kid make it through than me have a couple extra thousand dollars."
Camozzi asked the UFC about using the Reddit sponsorship, and the promotion was more than happy to comply and allow him to wear the logos in the Octagon for his fight next week against Andrew Craig. To ensure that people understand that he’s not taking any money away from this crowdfunding effort, the money donated by Reddit users goes from their pockets into a bank account created just for Gabe and his family.
"I don’t want to accept any of the money, I don’t want to be the middleman," Camozzi said. "The money goes straight to Gabe. There’s a link set up on Reddit now that you can donate. All of it adds up and it really helps it out. It’s taking a platform that I have to help this kid out."
As an active member of several online social networks, Camozzi appreciates the kind of community that Reddit has built, but he sincerely thanks the members involved for taking this initiative and then giving back to a kid who needs it far more than he does right now. At the same time, he’s more than happy to wear the Reddit logo for the site to help them continue to grow as well.
There’s just no loser in this particular sponsorship, and Camozzi wouldn’t have it any other way.
"I’ve always wanted to help people even before I was in the UFC. I’m very thankful for the life I live, I’m a very happy person and I really enjoy life and there are a lot of people out there who were dealt a bad hand or don’t have the same opportunities. It’s good to help them out," Camozzi said.
"It’s a cool way to help them build their community. They want to bring more people to Reddit, and it’s a great community of people looking to network with each other. It’s pretty cool and it shows what kind of people they are, and just for good conversation they are willing to help me and help this kid."