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Battle of the MMA apparel brands
IF YOU'VE just climbed into the cage with cage fighting, below are a few of the Southern California companies mixing it up in the world of mixed martial arts, many of them among the couple of dozen brands that descended on San Diego last week for a new trade show.
Tom Atencio, a former MMA fighter and vice president of Affliction Clothing, bristles at pigeon-holing it as a fight brand, stressing that only 20% to 25% of sales at the Seal Beach company come from MMA-related merchandise, with the rest from men's and women's denim, eyewear, shirts, footwear and accessories sold at stores such as Metropark, the Buckle and Nordstrom.
But he does claim that the company is the source of the most popular motifs and designs that run through today's most popular labels: the lettering, religious iconography, swords and skulls. (Its women's line is dubbed Sinful.)
"I can honestly tell you that stuff came from us as far as the Gothic lettering, the crosses and that kind of thing. It's not meant to be religious, it's just elements our designers like to work with."
Affliction entered the fight-promotion business with its first pay-per-view event in July; a second is scheduled for Oct. 11 in Las Vegas. www.afflictionclothing.com
One More Round
This year-old line based in Vernon, from some of the same guys who gave us BC Ethic, set out to position itself as "the first MMA-inspired brand at retail where your girlfriend shops," says Jim Baltutis, vice president of marketing. Now, after success selling hazy, charcoal gray, $66 screen-printed Ts and black, brass-button $119 wovens with copper foiling and appliques at Nordstrom's Brass Rail and other places, One More Round is taking the fight in the other direction -- to Tapout territory -- with the launch of a lower-priced line called OMR by One More Round, with Ts starting at $20. "We've established ourselves at the boutique level, and now we're trying to reach that core MMA customer that can't necessarily afford a $39 T-shirt," Baltutis says. The line hits stores in mid-November. www.onemoreround.com
Tito Ortiz, who held the Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight title, is founder, chief executive and de facto drill sergeant of Punishment, a line that's heavy on camouflage, stars, eagles, military-stencil style lettering and other martial motifs on $20 T-shirts, $60 fight shorts and $41 hoodies at such chains as No Fear.
Last week his Huntington Beach company unveiled its first foray into button-front woven shirts, and Ortiz says future seasons will build toward an entire Punishment wardrobe, including neckwear and denim. And Ortiz apparently has another product extension on the way; it was recently reported that former adult film star Jenna Jameson, his girlfriend of two years and frequent model for the women's line, is expecting the couple's first child. www.punishmentathletics.com
By November, fight fans will be able to buy three styles of footwear slathered in Tapout's batwing-style logo, as well as chain-link-emblazoned bedding, beds, backpacks and baby clothe. Fans and competitors alike shouldn't take their eyes off this Quiksilver of fight club culture. Tapout holds roughly 75% of the MMA-apparel market share, according to Marc Kreiner, president of the Grand Terrace company.
What's next, stand-alone stores? "Anything can happen," Kreiner says with a grin. In the meantime, with Champs as its single largest account and a reality TV show in Season 2, the crew is everywhere it needs to be with its $24 T-shirts and $44 fight shorts. www.tapout.com