Harvick-Cerrone sign of UFC and NASCAR alliance?
Two of the hottest sports properties on FOX have formed an alliance with last Thursday’s announcement that UFC lightweight contender Donald Cerrone signed a deal to join Kevin Harvick Inc., an athlete management company owned by 21-time NASCAR Sprint Series winner Kevin Harvick.
The move could be a sign of things to come on a larger scale with both NASCAR and the UFC being prominently featured on the new FOX Sports 1 network.
"Cowboy" Cerrone throws a huge head kick.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Harvick puts his life on the line when he reaches speeds of up to 200 miles per hour on the track, while Cerrone fights against well-trained professionals at the highest level in a cage. One might call it a match made in heaven.
“There are so many similarities between NASCAR and the UFC,” Harvick told FOXSports.com. “I have seen over the years that NASCAR fans are UFC fans and vice versa. This gives many of our current NASCAR sponsors the opportunity to have their logos on display in another sport.”
Both promotional entities maintain a stronghold on their respective sports, with NASCAR dominating stock car racing and the UFC controlling the majority of the mixed martial arts landscape, but they are completely unique from one another. The direct link between them could very well be the male-driven demographic of beer-guzzling, thrill-seeking fans.
Harvick, 37, is no stranger to MMA. A fan since 2008, he quickly picked up on the intricacies of the world’s fastest growing sport, having competed on his high school wrestling team and winning a sectional title in his senior year. These days, Harvick still trains in the art of taekwondo.
Harvick’s first real taste of cross-promotional sponsorship came from MMA clothing giant TapouT in 2010.
“I have known Skrape for many years,” Harvick said. “We were fortunate enough to go to Victory Lane in the No. 2 TapouT Truck at Michigan back in 2011.”
But the athletes were always Harvick’s primary focus. His favorites include former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, reigning featherweight king Jose Aldo and his latest sponsorship target Cerrone, who joins professional golfer Jason Gore and fellow NASCAR driver Jeff Burton on the Kevin Harvick Inc. stable.
“I was doing a TapouT tour and stopped off at the Texas Motor Speedway,” Cerrone told FOXSports.com. “I met Kevin and his other guys, we got to talking and I started watching a couple of races.”
A self-professed adrenaline junkie, Cerrone, 30, has been a fan of NASCAR ever since Harvick gave him the VIP treatment.
“I was a little bit of a fan, but now I watch all the time,” he said. “I went to watch Kevin race and he gave me the hot pass. I was on the road when he was going out and I wanted to give him the same experience right back.”
Cerrone did just that as Harvick cornered him for his UFC on Fuel TV 3 unanimous decision victory over Jeremy Stephens in May 2012.
Kevin Harvick moves off the track and into the world of the UFC.Jared C. Tilton
How did Harvick stack up to Cerrone’s elite coaching staff, which includes well-respected trainer Greg Jackson?
“There’s not much your corner is going to tell you,” Cerrone admitted.” People were going crazy. They just sit there and smile.”
Cerrone returns to the octagon at UFC on FOX Sports 1 on Aug. 28 for a lightweight clash against Rafael dos Anjos.
“Kevin will definitely be in the front row sitting there,” said Cerrone.
Harvick may be a renowned NASCAR driver, but he’s already preparing himself for life after racing.
“We had the internal structure within our company already set in stone and to be honest with you, I am looking at this as a bigger deal in the future once my racing career is over,” said Harvick.
Admittedly impressed by Harvick’s business acumen, Cerrone picked his brain from day one.
Donald "Cowboy" CerroneSteve Snowden
“I was always talking to Kevin about how the backdoor of his company works,” he said. ”He’s taught me to really just be smart about money. I asked a lot about investment, retirement and savings.”
The friendship between Cerrone and Harvick may date back several years, but it could also promote synergy between the two sports.
“I would like to bring more clients in down the road, but right now we are just trying to make sure everyone is taken care of when it comes to the sales and marketing side of things,” said Harvick.
Cerrone already envisions a potential target to join the Kevin Harvick Inc. team.
“Johny Hendricks would be perfect,” he said. “He’s a country boy and a pretty badass dude.”
If NASCAR and the UFC can both benefit from increased exposure, it’s a win-win scenario. With similar audience metrics and now sharing the same network platform, all signs point to closer collaboration in the future.