TAMPA — For the first time in nearly 10 years, a span covering five head coaches, the Bucs have a new equipment manager.
Jim Sorenson, who had been in charge of distributing equipment and apparel to players and transporting team equipment to all games since 2006, started a new job this month as director of equipment for Ultimate Fighting Championship, working with all of its mixed martial arts fighters.
"Believe me, it was a very hard decision to make," Sorenson, 42, said from London, where he's helping prepare for an event this weekend. "I think this was the right decision for myself and my family, and saw it as the next step in the evolution of my career."
Sorenson, who moves from Tampa to UFC's Las Vegas headquarters for his new job (UFC Fight Night comes to Tampa on April 16), isn't the first to make the move from the NFL to the UFC — the company's senior vice president of global consumer products, Tracey Bleczinski, came over from a similar job with the NFL in 2013.
The Bucs have already hired a replacement for Sorenson in Brad Berlin, who comes to the Bucs after two years at the University of Michigan. Before that, he spent 13 years as the Redskins' equipment manager, and at Michigan, he served as director of equipment, overseeing seven full-time equipment managers and working with all 31 athletic teams.
Sorenson said he has been impressed by UFC's global following — his first event is this weekend's Fight Night in London. He finds himself working with fighters not only from the United States and the United Kingdom but also Russia and Brazil, so dealing with interpreters is a new part of the job. He said he has quickly noticed more humility in the athletes he's working with compared to what he had with the Bucs.
"What's hit me the most is how humble these fighters are. They're very humble individuals," Sorenson said. "It's a little different than working with the NFL football players. I hate to say it, but in my 25 years in the NFL, the players have definitely changed. A lot of it stems from now, when these kids are (committing) to colleges in ninth and 10th grade. The whole recruiting process and what that's turned into. I think that's a big factor."
Sorenson said he was a big fan of UFC and mixed martial arts — he attended his first UFC event in person with former Bucs receiver Joey Galloway in Columbus, Ohio, in 2008 or 2009. "Fight Night in UFC is as close as you could come to a game-day atmosphere in the NFL," he said. "It's electric."
Logistically, Sorenson's job will be simpler than with the Bucs, where he supervised the gathering and transport of 16,000 pounds of equipment for road games, taking down and setting up a locker room and gear every player needs.