NEW YORK — Kobe Bryant is set to enter the UFC octagon — at least, with a sports drink.
The retired Los Angeles Lakers great is an investor with BodyArmor, the first official sports drink of UFC, and hit New York on Thursday to promote the partnership.
He could have used something stiff to ease the sting of the Dodgers’ loss to Houston in the World Series.
“Heartbreaker, man,” he said. “I’m happy for Houston and they derserve it. But being in LA all these years, my heart breaks for them.”
Bryant was flanked by UFC President Dana White and fighters Cody Garbrandt, Francis Ngannou and Cythia Calvillo just a left hook away from Madison Square Garden. Garbrandt defends the 135-pound title against T.J. Dillashaw on the UFC 218 card Saturday night at the Garden.
Bryant, who gave an informal backstage pep talk to the fighters, can’t stick around for the card. He said he was in a rush to get home to his three daughters, the oldest of which, Gianna, has flashed some of the same basketball skills as her dad. Bryant has said he has no interest in a Lakers’ front office role and is content to keep his scouting reports within the family.
“I coach my daughter’s sixth grade team. That’s the extent of it all,” Bryant said. “She’s a beast. She’s tough. She’s a little firecracker, man.”
Bryant, the third-leading scorer in NBA history, called his first year of retirement “lovely.”
“I started thinking about what comes next when I was 21 years old,” Bryant said. “When you retire, how do you grow, how do you mature? And also, how do you understand the market?”
Bryant has more than business interests to keep him busy in retirement. He wrote an ode to basketball titled, “Dear Basketball,” that he recited in September alongside “Jaws” film composer John Williams and his orchestra in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl. He wants to become a mentor to athletes, in the corporate world or anyone who wants to pick the brain of the five-time NBA champion.
“How can I take the knowledge that I’ve learned in my profession and help them,” Bryant asked. “I’ve had that in my life. I’ve had guys like John Williams, who is a composer, who seemingly has nothing to do with what I do but has everything to do with it in terms of how you manage a team, how you focus on details.”
BodyArmour unveiled its new flavor “Knockout Punch,” specfically for UFC. BodyArmour says it’s the fastest growing sports drink in its category, and boasts 110 percent increase in sales from last year.
BodyArmour wants to usher in a new generation of sports greats as the undisputed sports drink champ.
“It’s the boxing of sports drinks. That’s what Gatorade is,” BodyArmour founder Mike Repole said.
It’s the kind of trash talk Bryant could support. And it’s just a small reason why Bryant has invested in the company.
“I was obsessive about every little detail,” Bryant said. “From footwear to what I wear to recovery. If I feel like I could gain any type of advantage whatsoever, I obsessed over that detail. So yeah, this is something I wish I would have had.”
The Lakers will retire Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 in a ceremony Dec. 18 during their game against Golden State. Bryant is an 18-time All-Star and the Lakers’ franchise leader in points (33,643), games played (1,346), 3-pointers (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws (8,378).
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