Float On Sensory – A Secret Weapon Of Fighters

Written by MMARecap Staff on . Posted in Brands

A couple of years ago, Joe Rogan posted a youtube video talking about sensory deprivation tanks.  The idea is that you float in a tank that is devoid of light, sound and the water is warm so that you are just floating.  What this does is help one visualize any number of things, be it an outcome for a sporting event, a drawing, writing a novel or anything else.

Quinn Zepeda saw this video and immediately had to try it out for himself.  Knowing that he was about to move up to Portland, he gathered some friends and they went to Float Lab.  He stayed int he tank for over two hours, barely experiencing any of the side effects that have been reported while inside the tank.  But when he got out of the tank, everything was different for Zepeda.

“I got out and immediately I was taken aback by how good I felt, how sharp the world was.  My sense of smell was increased and I remember how good the soap smelled when I got in the shower.  It awakened all kinds of senses that I’m not super tied into most of the time.”

Shortly after he moved up to Portland while drinking some beers with his best friend Graham, the two got to talking about the experience.  They scoured around Portland for a place to float and were amazed that there weren’t more of them in the area.  Graham had opened two businesses prior, and Quinn had saved up a good chunk of change before making the move.  The two sat down and really figured out numbers and decided they could open their own floating business.

In just over 150 days, the business went from concept to opening.  Everything for the most part lined up for them from getting the first location they applied for to dealing with issues they weren’t expecting to getting the permits for everything.  Their passion drove them forward and they didn’t look back.

Just days after opening, the business was operating at above daily costs.  Nothing to pay down any of the debts they took on, but it was making money.  It was then that they knew it was going to be a success.  That first week, they issued a Groupon and immediately over 2,000 were sold.  That meant that the tanks were in full capacity nearly from the get go.  And that was one of the best marketing tools they had as Zepeda says, “The best way to do anything is to get people in there, and they’ll talk about it.  They will go be your promoter.”

The only issue that they had was informing people of not just what floating was, but the benefits of it.  So the team came up with a two-page pdf that they have handed out time and time again.  To this day, over 40,000 copies of that pdf have been handed out, all in the name of informing the public what was so great about floating.

As for them getting into the MMA industry, it was much like their approach for just getting anyone in; word of mouth.

“It started with Matt Lindland coming into our spot and we comped him because I knew who he was.  He bought a gift certificate for his son after and then he spread the word at Team Quest.  Ryan Healy came in first and again, we comped him a float.  Then he brought Pat in and Pat started floating with us.  Then more guys from Team Quest and from MMA Lab came in.  And the response has been great.  I remember Pat saying his first fight after he started floating just the jitters weren’t there in a way that they always were.  He felt real calm and confident.  Some of the guys even tell us to stop getting bigger as they might lose their secret weapon.”

They haven’t worked yet with the UFC, due to UFC’s sponsorship tax, but it is something they are looking into.  For now, they are still just a local sponsor for their fighters, and they seem to be enjoying the benefits tremendously.  For more information on Float On, visit their website at www.floathq.com

CTRL Industries – The Name Says It All

Written by MMARecap Staff on . Posted in Brands

A difficulty some people have when starting a new company is coming up with a name.  After all that name is the first impression and more often than not, the domain is likely taken.  And trying to get that perfect name can sometimes be a struggle.  But not for Blayne Barlow of CTRL Industries.  And his company’s name CTRL, short for control, likely has more meaning for him than even he realizes.

To tell the story of CTRL and where it all came about one has to go back to 1997.  Yes the company was formed in 2011, some fourteen years later, but the true origin of the story dates back to the late nineties.  Back then, Barlow and his brothers were just messing around and training.  They were introduced to jiu jitsu from their cousin who showed them UFC 2.  They watched in awe as Royce Gracie just dismantled fighter after fighter, all with nothing more than controlling where the fight was and where his opponent was.

So the brothers set out to train, but unfortunately the combination of the small town and lack of jiu jitsu schools lead them to the one place that was always open; their living room.  They would just practice doing what Gracie did for hours on end.  While it didn’t teach them a lot about jiu jitsu, it did teach them enough of the basics.

In 2005 Barlow joined a gym and fell in love with the sport even more.  Since then he has been to the gym at least three times a week, sometimes as much as eight times when time and life permitted and was recently rewarded with his brown belt.

To hear Barlow tell the story of the name it is all focused on control in not just jiu jitsu, but martial arts in general. “There wasn’t really any heavy thought into any other names. It was CTRL. I kind of came up with it early on, and I settled on it because it was so relevant to any fighting arts. First with jiu jitsu. My passion’s with jiu jitsu, so with jiu jitsu everything is about control. You’ve gotta control the grips, you gotta control the space between you and your opponent, you gotta have control on your passing, you gotta have control on your sweeping, when you’re submitting. I think it was Damien Meyer who said once, “If you have five hundred attacks in jiu jitsu, but If you don’t have the proper control, you’re not going to finish any of them.” I thought that was kind of a cool quote that was so relevant to what we were doing. If you think about it, everything comes back to how much control you can get, and I thought it was so relevant and so perfect for what we were doing. And I used the abbreviation CTRL: it’s like computer geek for control, and it’s something that people know. People are familiar with that abbreviation. But I use it in a different context. I used it towards fighting, MMA, jiu jitsu, and even with boxing. When you’re boxing you’ve got to control the distance. With muay thai you gotta control the clinch. I think that pretty much everything comes back to how well you control the situation you’re in. That’s why the name works out so well for the brand.”

But that isn’t the full story of the company.  It might be the story of the name, but there is more than just coming up with the name.  What lead Barlow to create the jiu jitsu brand was life throwing him a curve ball.  His wife became severely sick so much so that she was required to stay in a hospital while she recovered.  The time off from her job lead to her losing her job while she was still recovering.  It isn’t unreasonable to think that a family in this situation would have gotten angry and thrown in the towel, but Barlow decided that this was an opportunity for the two of them.

With his background in artistic design and his passion for jiu jitsu, he wanted to launch his own jiu jitsu brand.  And with his wife out of work, he approached her and laid out the game plan on how the company would move forward.  It all hinged on her being up for it as he knew that he couldn’t focus 100% on it but she could.  She went for it and she was able to devote her energy into the company full time while Barlow focused on the designs outside of his regular job.  What he did, was he took control of a bad situation and made it a good one.

Moving forward with the company Barlow had an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how one looks at things in the fact that there is a cross over from jiu jitsu into MMA both with practitioners and with fans.  Barlow sees it as both and works hard to overcome the obstacle.

I think the guys that are strictly MMA brand have a huge advantage over jiu jitsu brands. Because, with the MMA market, the actual consumer maybe 90-95% of the time they don’t practice any martial art. They’re more of fans that watch MMA. They’re more followers of MMA than actual practitioners of MMA. So they’re able to market to people that don’t actually train. And with jiu jitsu, it’s like all of our stuff has to be so much geared toward the practitioner. And it has to be geared and relevant to the things the practitioner understands. So we have things, like I have shirts that only a jiu jitsu guy would get, you know? A lot of times only something that a jiu jitsu guy would understand. They have a major advantage in that way, but I still think we’re kind of a niche market.We’re kind of, I guess you could say, a little bit underground because the consumer is actually the practitioner. So it’s kind of an almost exclusive market. The exclusivity is kind of nice for the consumer, but not so much for business.”

That niche market maybe smaller, but there is no doubt that the fans are talking about his product.  And because it has been built by fans of jiu jitsu, social media has been a huge deal for Barlow.  He has advertised in many different spaces ranging from print magazines to social media, but he feels that social media has created his brand’s awareness.  It allows people to see the product and some potential designs before it goes to market.  He can get feedback from the fans and make changes.  All in a matter of real time.  And because of that his favorite marketing technique is using social media and running contests to give back.

I do a lot of contests on Facebook. I think that’s one of them. Some of them, I try to put a twist on, to make them unique. There’s a lot of other companies doing contests too, but I think it helps a lot. When people see free stuff up for grabs, they always want to jump in and try to get at it. That’s one of the things we’ve done is try to give away a lot of things. It’s partially for our own promotion but also to give back to all the people that support us, all the people that follow our pages on Facebook and Twitter and all these things.”

Again, it goes back to controlling what he can.  Putting product in people’s hands, letting them realize the quality of the product, having fans take pictures and post them with the product, it all helps.

One thing that has helped him was getting the support of Renzo Gracie.  Barlow a huge fan of Renzo reached out on twitter.  The two were able to share stories as Barlow is from the Relson Gracie team and Renzo immediately showed support.  Barlow repaid the favor by creating a “Renzo Knows” shirt and it is in that spirit that many of the shirts have been created.

But at the end of the day it goes back to control and how much you have over everything.  As Barlow says, without the fans, he wouldn’t be here and as such, he focuses a lot of his time on the customers.

I think is real important is the people, the customers. The followers, the fans. I think they’re pretty much the main focus of everything, and that’s what I try to do. I try to be on top of my customer service. I always try to be involved, whether it’s their purchasing process, whether there’s a problem. I try to go above and beyond the problem, go above and beyond correcting it the best I can. I try to interact with them because interaction with them really helps a lot to tailor a product to their needs. And being a practitioner of jiu jitsu I know there’s a million body types out there, so you gotta design a million different sizes of gis. And I haven’t really expanded into that, but I’m working on it. So there’s things like that. I think the main thing of any business is the consumer, and that’s what I try to do is focus on them a lot and give them what they want and satisfy them. That’s the main thing I try to do above anything else.”

Fear The Fighter – Early Success A Surprise

Written by MMARecap Staff on . Posted in Brands

Fear the Fighter Logo

Fear the Fighter Logo

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.”

Luke Jernigan of Intimidation Clothing – I Really Like What I Do

Written by MMARecap Staff on . Posted in Brands

Intimidation Clothing Logo

Intimidation Clothing Logo

The landscape with MMA apparel companies is an ever changing one. There’s always the running joke of “Oh that guy wears TapouT, he must trane UFC” that pops up on several forums and news sites. But trying to be different, in a market that appears to have a narrow field of vision is tough. And while there have been several companies that have come and gone through out the years, all while trying to be different, the ones that are doing well are of interest to us. What makes these companies stand out above the crowd and more importantly, what makes them last.

The first glimpse we have of a company lasting, is Intimidation Clothing. At first glance of the name, the casual fan may or may not be aware of it. Yet a simple role call of fighters sponsored over the years, brings the name Intimidation Clothing to the forefront. Fighters like Jason Dent, Brian Rogers, and Jessica Eye to name a few.

But why is it that naming a fighter such as Brian Rogers, does one immediately remember that was sponsored by Intimidation Clothing? According to president Luke Jernigan, it has to do with the marketing strategy behind sponsoring a fighter.

“What we try to do it basically just brand it on people’s minds that if you see Jessica Eye, you see Intimidation Clothing. If you see Brian “The Predator” Rogers and his flying knee knockout and Bellator 61: “Oh, that’s the Intimidation guy, Brian Rogers. Okay, I remember him.” That’s our goal is ingraining that into peoples’ minds, and using our social media in such a way to remind people and make sure that they understand that our name is synonymous with certain individuals and promotions, etc.”

The way this is done is that Intimidation clothing separates out its e-commerce site and its promotional site.

“Intimidationclothing.com handles all of our transactual e-commerce type of work, then we have Intimidationmma.com, which is more of a blog, but I have a staff on the back end that basically runs it almost like a news site. “Intimidation sponsors Antonio Nieves in his boxing bout on December 29th.” Boom. Article about him. It’s just like a newspaper article written right there about Antonio Nieves and how we’re working with him for the second time in his four professional boxing fights.”

But it isn’t just limited to announcing that they have signed a fighter, or are sponsoring a fighter for an event. Each week, an update is posted on the website, promoting their fighters who competed that weekend, win or lose. And by doing this, it re-iterates that belief of branding the fighters with their brand.

Like most companies though, there is a learning curve. Jernigan was quick to realize this when he founded the company back in 2009 when he stated, “Well, I started the brand in 2009. I got involved in the MMA side from a little bit of media background where I own a site because I have a background in sports websites and online internet properties that are sports-related, and I really started falling in love with the sport of mixed martial arts. And we decided, like a lot of companies, to kind of, “Oh, we’ll just create a t-shirt company. We’ll make millions.” (laughs) You realize pretty quickly that this is a cutthroat business that is saturated with everybody and their brother trying to do the same thing and very few that can separate themselves. So what we decided after that was: How are we gonna do this? We’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do it right. We’re gonna be as unique as we can, so how do we go about doing that? So that was the big challenge in the early days. We didn’t really start it with the big business plan and come into it… It was one of those things where we went into it a little bit blindly, but luckily it didn’t take too many months. I’m fairly savvy and pretty smart, and I know marketing. So it was from there just trying to separate ourselves from other brands, and constantly try and get as much exposure…not necessarily to an MMA-only category on a regular basis.”

Jernigan over and over stated that he is savvy and smart when it came to marketing, but of course there were a few mishaps. Such was the case at Strikeforce Miami in January of 2010. Intimidation Clothing sponsored Herschel Walker’s opponent, Greg Nagy, in what they thought was going to be a home run from a marketing stand point.

“We sponsored Greg Nagy and we paid a premium to have the crotch of his shorts say Intimidation Clothing. And literally, I remember sitting by the computer, checking Google Analytics every fifteen minutes to see how many people had come through to the site. How many orders had come through and everything. I kept checking the traffic and I was like Where’s the traffic? Where are the sales? One sponsorship… This was supposed to make us all this money.”

Of course it didn’t make them all the money that they thought it would and was one of those early on lessons. Looking back Jernigan realizes several issues with the sponsorship and why it failed. “We paid a premium for a fighter who really wasn’t a big name fighter, just because of his fifteen minutes of fame, and Hershel sat on him for three rounds, and the logo hardly got seen by anybody, and he got punched out a bunch… And it is what it is. You learn from these things.”

Looking at the marketing of the company over the three plus years it has been around, several different strategies and ideas have been tossed around and used for how to best market the brand. But according to Jernigan, it is one thing that he has been doing right since day one that has kept him where he is.

“What’s been successful for us, from day one, is search engine optimization, and that’s because I have a background in that industry. So right away we optimized our site for “MMA apparel” and other key words around that, and we’ve been building links and doing everything that you do from a search engine optimization standpoint since day one. And we’ve consistently been on the first page of Google since day one for MMA apparel, competing with many, many bigger, bigger companies that are way bigger than us in terms of gross sales, but at the same time, we’re up there with those guys, and we look strong.”

The thing about running an apparel company in the mixed martial arts world, is that there are two sides. The selling of the clothes, and then the sponsoring of fighters. And the two co-exist together. Picking the right person to sponsor is a huge deal for Intimidation Clothing. While they have fallen for the line of “I’m the next best thing that isn’t signed to the UFC” a couple times, a constant evaluation of fighters with values and qualities that align with the company’s are what they look for when sponsoring a fighter.

“There’s two types that I’m really looking for. You want the up-and-comer. You want that. We got a guy named Isaiah Chapman, a bantamweight out of Cleveland, there on Akron: 4-0 as a pro, continually, gradually brought up by the NAAFS out here, each fight a little bit tougher and a little bit tougher, three finishes in his four fights, last two fights were very good, tough, right around the 500-mark kind of guys who, if they wouldn’t have fought such tough guys, would probably be 10-5, 12-4 kind of guys, but they fight such tough guys their records are 6-6, 4-4 type guys. But Isaiah’s 4-0 now, and he’s the perfect example of what we want from an up-and-comer. But he’s also the perfect example of the kind of individual and human being I want to be working with. Isaiah’s about as humble as it gets, about as loyal as it gets, and he appreciates working with you. We get a lot of guys who come to us like we should be honored to work with them, yet I haven’t seen them in the UFC or Bellator tournaments at any point in my life. And I never want to disrespect anyone that hasn’t made it to the “major leagues,” but you have to have a realistic perspective of where you have been or where you are in your career. I’d almost rather have the guy who’s 10-5, fighting on the regional scene, maybe a borderline XFO or NAAFS title-holder, but not necessarily someone that Bellator’s knocking on the door to come sign. I’d rather have that guy who can be loyal to me and charge me a little bit less to work with him every time that I know two years from now I’m still gonna be sponsoring him every fight – than that diva who thinks he’s worth $1000 right now on a regional fight. So we work for the good-quality individual human beings, but we also like to work with the higher-up side. But you don’t have to be the next Georges St. Pierre or the next UFC fighter in order for us to work with you.”

The best piece of advice Jernigan has for anyone looking to get into the apparel business? Learn as much as possible before spending any money. “Make sure you have a lot of capital, make sure that you have a lot of great contacts from day one, and learn all the lessons before you have a chance to experience them, and plan on tons of competitors from all levels, from all business experience levels around you in a saturated market… And if you’re ready for all that, then you’re fine.”

And of course the advice everyone gives is to do what they love and Jernigan does just that. “I really like what I do. I’m very fortunate – I’m blessed in that regard.”

For more information on Intimidation Clothing visit their online store or their website