Is The Rock trying to rehab his image with gift house for UFC fighter?

The Rock’s UFC sponsorship came under fire recently due to fighters not receiving a fair cut of the money.

By: Anton Tabuena | 2 days ago

Soon after his UFC sponsorship came under fire again, The Rock has made a grand gesture to help a UFC fighter.

Dwayne Johnson, known from his pro-wrestling days as The Rock, has sent an incredibly generous gift to UFC welterweight Themba Gorimbo. In a video posted to his social media, the Hollywood actor said he was inspired by the African fighter’s story, and decided to help him try and fulfill his dreams in mixed martial arts.

Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock, raises the BMF belt during a UFC event.
IMAGO / ZUMA / Jason Silva

The Rock gifts UFC fighter Themba Gorimbo a house

At one point Themba Gorimbo just had $7 to his name, after he moved from Africa to Miami to try and pursue his UFC dream. Gorimbo is 11-4 in MMA and already a couple of fights into his UFC career, but up to this point, he was still living at the gym in Miami.

While barely able to spend for himself in the US, Gorimbo still sends money to try and help build better facilities in his African home town.

The Rock says he was inspired by this story and has since decided to gift Gorimbo a house for him and his family to move into, along with a lot of “Project Rock” merch. He posted the entire thing on social media.

The Rock’s UFC sponsorship recently came under fire again

Dwayne Johnson’s “Project Rock” sponsorship was recently cursed out by tenured UFC fighter Tanner Boser. The light heavyweight, like many others in the roster, wasn’t happy with the Rock’s shoes being added to the UFC’s required uniforms without the athletes getting additional payment.

“I guess for sponsors, I have Venum, who actually gives me money. And not every f—k face company that puts their logo all over my shit that I don’t gain a single penny from,” Boser ranted. “Like and all those other ones can go eat a dick, and The Rock’s shoes can go f—k themselves too. So thank you to Venum for actually paying me to wear their shit.”

As I noted previously, Boser’s frustration is more than understandable, with so many UFC fighters like him and Gorimbo struggling to make ends meet, but that anger is a bit misdirected:

The promotion instilling uniforms and banning outside sponsors during events has led to a previously lucrative sponsorship market to dry up for fighters, and companies now pay UFC directly instead. 

This is the same for Venum, who pays the UFC to be their exclusive outfitting partner. It’s then the promotion who pays UFC fighters a very small cut of that payment. When additional sponsors like or The Rock’s shoes come in and pay UFC a large amount of money, it is also the UFC’s decision to not pay fighters extra for it. 

UFC received hundreds and hundreds of millions more after the Venum deal, but they decided to just fold it all under the same “outfitting policy,” and give the same pay for fighters. Much like there was heavy uproar against Underarmour and The Rock after their shoe deal was announced, it was also a tad misdirected as the amount of money going to the fighters is ultimately decided by the UFC.

The Rock’s “Project Rock” shoes sponsoring the UFC.

Good PR to counter the bad?

Much like the UFC’s controversial Reebok deal, the blowback against The Rock may have been misdirected, but it was ultimately still bad press for him and his “Project Rock” brand.

Is this well produced video promoting his brand and UFC ties all a big PR move to counteract the bad press, or was this something they’ve always planned to do? Whatever the motives are, it’s a very generous gift that will likely change the life of a struggling UFC prospect.

UFC not giving a fair share of the revenue to the fighters is ultimately the promotion’s fault, but it clearly wasn’t a good look for The Rock to talk about caring about the fighters, only for them to not to get a cut of the lucrative sponsorship. Gifting Gorimbo a house was certainly a very generous act, but it also highlights the problem so many fighters are in.

Gorombo is just one fighter, and there are too many cases — even those far more accomplished and popular than him — where contenders have struggled to make ends meet despite already having several fights in what is by far the richest fight promotion in the world.

It will take more than one Celebrity GoFundMe-type of donation to truly enact change, but it’s really not supposed to be on The Rock or any other sponsor or celebrity to fix the UFC’s broken system.

Bloody Elbow Archives

Join the new Bloody Elbow

Our Substack is where we feature the work of writers like Zach Arnold, John Nash and Karim Zidan. We’re fighting for the sport, the fighters and the fans. Please help us by subscribing today.

Share this story

About the author
Anton Tabuena
Anton Tabuena

Anton Tabuena is the Managing Editor for Bloody Elbow. He’s been covering MMA and combat sports since 2009, and has also fought in MMA, Muay Thai and kickboxing.

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories