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By Alvin Benjamin Carter III, MMATorch Specialist
The sport of mixed martial arts has created a number of adjacent markets that have proven to be lucrative. One of the largest and most visible is the fight sports clothing market. While brands like TapouT and Affliction have become synonymous with MMA, in honor of Women's History Month, I wanted to cover a female owned and oriented fight sports brand called Fight Chix. Women's MMA is growing, and dominant fighters like Strikeforce's Featherweight Champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos have both female and male fans. Fight Chix also has women and men excited about it's brand. I interviewed Fight Chix CEO Elisabeth Nuesser (via email) to find out more about her company, and to learn an industry insider's perspective on the future of women's MMA.
Alvin Carter III: When did you start Fight Chix clothing, and what is the mission of the brand?
Elisabeth Nuesser: We started in 2006. It actually started off as a hobby. We didn't have a grand business plan and investors. Basically, I was watching MMA with my husband, who is a designer and has trained and coached martial arts. I was a fan of the sport but frustrated with the fact that all the clothes had either blood or skulls---and little else. So I came up with the name. The next day Jake had a logo done and we were off!
Alvin: What is it like being a female CEO in the MMA industry? As far as MMA has come in terms of gender, do you find that there is still a "boys club" mentality within the industry?
Elisabeth: It is a blessing and a curse. I have to say 99 percent of the people we have met have been very supportive of what we are doing. FightChix is really focused on the female fans and fighters in the sport and we do it with a sense of design and style that aren 't really matched by any other brands out there. We also realize we are still a small company in the big picture of things, but we keep pushing forward with our mission to empower women worldwide. You would think being a female CEO in a male dominated industry would be intimidating---but I grew up with 6 brothers and was the only daughter, so its more like the holidays at my Mom's house!
Alvin: How many fighters does your brand currently sponsor, and what organizations can we see them fight in?
Elisabeth: We sponsor several fighters on different levels and different organizations. We recently sponsored Takayo Hashi in her Strikeforce 135lbs title fight. We also will be sponsoring Zoila Frausto vs Meshia Tate on the Strikeforce Challenger series on March 26th. We have also sponsored some up and coming jujitsu fighters, Abby Bork and Marisol Romero. We have also sponsored Miguel Torres trained Anthony Gomez, Jeff Curran, Amanda Lucas and Kelly Kolbold. We really do what we can for fighters and for charities we believe in.
Alvin: If you could work out sponsorships with any two fighters (female or male) that have the ability to expand your market, whom would they be?
Elisabeth: Wow---and money and contracts are not an issue? I would go with the champ, Cyborg and BJ Penn because he is not only a great Champion, but he is constantly online wearing the brands that sponsor him....and he is my husbands all time favorite fighter!
Alvin: Where do you see women's MMA going in the next three years?
Elisabeth: I believe it will continue to grow. I think it needs a mainstream push like TUF (The Ultimate Fighter) gave the UFC. Dana doesn't think there are enough women out there to fill the divisions----well what better why to fill the divisions out AND refresh theTUF show---EASY!! Put women in the house battling it out for a WEC contract. It would be a start. Until that happens I see Stikeforce and Bellator developing more and more women fighters.
Alvin: Strikeforce appears to be leading the way in regard to highly visible fight promotions that feature women in the main event. Do you think that theUFC or Bellator will do the same in coming years if the number of women competitors continues to grow?
Elisabeth: I kind of touched on that, but yes. I have heard a women's tournament in both Strikeforce and Bellator will happen. I also think as it grows the UFC won't ignore the money to be made promoting women fighters. And seriously---a reality show with the women living together and then fighting, how could there not be drama and entertainment!
Alvin: I noticed on your website that Brett Rogers was wearing one of your new blood splatter t-shirts. I bet not too many people besides Fedor Emelianenko could say anything to him about that (not that anyone should), but in general do you find that men are ordering shirts for themselves?
Elisabeth: Brett was visiting us at the Arnold's from the Pride Nutrition booth, where he is sponsored. We hung out with him and his training partner AdamRothfelder, who is also a name you will see in the future in MMA. Both are great guys! We have actually gotten a decent response from our guys shirts. Jake won't really design anything he wouldn't wear himself and we have had fighters like Bas Rutten and Joe "Daddy" Stevenson wear our stuff just cause they thought it looked different and cool. We also are doing a signature shirt for a guy in the next few months, but that is still under wraps for right now!
Alvin: Has Fight Chix ever promoted a MMA fight card or tournament, and if not, is that something that might happen in the future?
Elisabeth: Honestly, I will never say never, but we have been happy to work with a lot of the local Chicago promotions like Jeff Curran'sXFO and Total Fight Challenge.
Alvin: Where can I purchase Fight Chix clothing and learn more about the brand?
Elisabeth: You can always go to www.fightchix.com and buy direct. We have a special offer for everyone who signs up on our mailing list. We are also at several online retailers likemmawarehouse, performancemma, and the mmaweekly.com store. We are expanding in several retail stores too. Eminent Lifestyle is a new extreme lifestyle store that has over 90 brands and we are in the top 10 best selling brands there. We have several other retail stores listed on our website.
My interview with Elisabeth Nuesser not only highlights how Fight Chix is more than a brand for women, it emphasizes the influence niche markets have on the ever expanding world of MMA.
Follow Alvin on Twitter: @AwwwSnap
Alvin Benjamin Carter III is an MMATorch Specialist columnist focusing on the business and statistic side of the sport of MMA. He trains in SanDa / Shan Shou (Chinese Kickboxing) and MMA. He also has a business background in music production, management, and clothing. He has launched two companies which cater to niche markets, giving him experience in examining trends and attitudes that can affect a particular business model, which he applies in his weekly column for MMATorch to the sport of MMA.
[Elisabeth Nuesser photo provided to MMATorch courtesy of Fight Chix]
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