Ladies first: Iowa's Bella Mir lands UFC's first NIL deal

January 27, 2023, 11:19 AM

The UFC is getting into the name, image and likeness (NIL) business.

The world's biggest fight promotion has signed Bella Mir, daughter of former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, as its first-ever NIL ambassador, officials told ESPN on Friday.

Bella Mir, 19, is a freshman at the University of Iowa and competes for the school's women's wrestling team. She is already 3-0 as a professional MMA fighter.

"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 statement. "I'm going to make sure I do my best to represent UFC and show the world what I'm all about."

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 was a four-time Nevada state high school wrestling champion, ranked sixth nationally at 144 pounds among high school wrestlers and also has won multiple Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments. Most recently in MMA, she beat Jessica Link by first-round armbar in June under the Xtreme Fight Night banner.

"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," 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."

NIL contracts don't necessarily equate to an athlete competing for the UFC, but given Bella Mir's pedigree, it seems likely she'll fight for the promotion in the future.

It's unclear if the UFC will sign more college athletes to NIL deals. WWE, meanwhile, has a robust NIL program with more than 30 athletes contracted over the last two years. Olympic wrestling gold medalist Gable Steveson, whom the UFC also had some interest in, was the first WWE NIL signee in September 2021.

Frank Mir is an MMA pioneer who first won the UFC heavyweight title in 2004, owns a win over Brock Lesnar and was UFC interim heavyweight champion in 2008. He last fought for the UFC in 2019.