This time last year, Fear the Fighter was only a concept for David Makdessi. The idea came about in 2007, but it wasn’t until June of 2012 that Makdessi put the idea to paper and formed the company. Unlike many other apparel companies in the mixed martial arts market, the reasoning behind it wasn’t the stereotypical let’s get in this and we will be millionaires. Instead it was watching his brother John Makdessi struggle through out his career trying to earn a stable income that was his motivation.
After five years of thinking of designs and figuring out the business plan the question is, what was it that lead Makdessi to pull the trigger. As he tells it, it was just he woke up and decided to do it.
“It was just like, just one day I’m like I gotta do this. Everybody tells me I’m a risk-taker, so basically I just saw something in a brand and I wanted to bring something different. And I said, “Listen, I think it would work.” I was really confident about it. I had designs already thought about, I had thought about lines and all that stuff. So that’s how I did it. I just took it on. I wasn’t expecting– I never expected to be this big this fast. I didn’t know it would grow that fast. That’s great. I always say timing, I guess, is good, because it just proved to me that I was right. Everybody was getting fed up with everything that was out there right now.”
And over the course of the five years, the name Fear the Fighter, was the only option for him. It has many different interpretations and Makdessi is quick to capitalize on them.
“I had that name. I didn’t think about anything. I saw how we’re all fighters inside of us and that you have to fear the fighter. Basically once someone puts something in his head, you just got to fear him and be careful, because we’ll overcome our battles, you know?”
So far there have been two high points for Fear The Fighter. The first came about from the cancellation of an event. Stemming from seeing his brother’s trials, it was a no brainer for Makdessi to ensure that the fighters he was paying on the card, still got paid. He didn’t think it was going to become a major pr story, but the positiveness of what he did made it take off.
“The funny thing is there was no motivation. It just was a decision that we found that was fair. And at that point I was very surprised… Honestly i didn’t think about anything like some people say, “They’re doing it for media coverage,” but at that point we didn’t even think about that. It wasn’t even a thought because who would have thought something like that would make media for a reason? It’s just a simple thing, you know? You’re backing up your team.”
That team mentality of wanting everyone to succeed was evident at UFC on Fuel TV 5. And by doing something non-traditional such as sponsoring both main event fighters as well as nearly 80% of the card was something different.
“Basically it was a decision of just sponsoring all – I probably had 80% of the guys there. Especially we had the main event was Struve against Miocic. I sponsored both of them. I don’t think that ever happened yet. I think I took that as marketing something different, and to me it was successful. I really think that marketing strategy succeeded. It was something good, and obviously our goal was to make people aware of it, and they were.”
And it was successful. Shortly after that card doors were opened in several countries leading to a massive market presence; something that no one had seen in the industry before.
“In a matter of 3 months we opened the doors to distribution in Australia, the UK, Russia, Germany… I work with guys behind the scenes that have been in the industry for over twenty years, and they never seen that happen, ever. There’s a lot of things that FTF is going through right now that even these guys have been in the industry 15-20 years say that this has never been done. The numbers that we’re doing with distribution and sales and all that have never been heard of.”
While the success has been much larger than Makdessi had imagined this early, he has had struggles; primarily with one group of people: managers. A quick search of bad mma management leads to several horror stories and editorials questioning the need for a fighter to have a manager. Makdessi doesn’t question the need, but he does question the motivation behind some of the bad management companies.
“First, you have to find people to work with. Especially in MMA you gotta be very careful because there’s a lot of managers out there that are really out for their pockets, and they not only ruin the name of the fighter, they can also ruin the reputation of the brand. I’ve learned fast that managers in the MMA industry are really bad. And it’s so sad because anyone can become a manager, and that’s what’s really scary because no one is looking over what the managers are doing. I can see it first hand right now that managers keep on screwing deals up and just get more and more greedy, and unfortunately some fighters are not educated well enough to realize that the managers are fucking up for the fighters. So it’s really sad. There are good managers and smart fighters, but the bad ones are ruining careers.”
As to why Fear the Fighter has been so successful? It’s his team. “First make sure you have a good bankroll. It’s a very big factor. You got to make sure you have a solid, good team behind you. At the end of the day if I didn’t have a good team behind me, we wouldn’t be here. I think that is what makes us successful as a brand.”