It's been a tumultuous couple of days for MMA, specifically for the UFC. After a knee injury forced Dan Henderson to withdraw from UFC 151, a call was put out by UFC brass to several fighters to meet Jon Jones in the octagon. One man answered the call, Chael Sonnen. After more than 24 hours deliberation, and careful consultation with his trainers and management, Jones declined the fight, and Dana White announced that UFC 151 had been cancelled.
This surprising turn of events pretty much set the MMA world on it's ear. The shock wave was immense, and many fans and every fighter on the card was adversely affected. Some bouts have been rescheduled, and the UFC has offered to pay all the fighters their show money.
Among all this chaos and misfortune, a fresh face on the sponsor landscape has emerged as a standout. Fear The Fighter announced almost immediately, that they would pay out the contracted sponsor money to the two fighters representing them from that now defunct card. Takeya Mizugaki and Eddie Yagin will be paid, up front and immediately, the money the company agreed to sponsor them for, whether they reschedule their fights or not. I was able to get a quick interview with the owner, David Makdessi, detailing the company's roots, and the message they are hoping to get across.
Stephie Daniels: Fear The Fighter just seemed to come out of nowhere and has burst onto the scene in rapid fashion. Give a little background on your company.
David Makdessi: FTF was inspired by my brother, John Makdessi. I was watching him train, and commit his life to MMA in the hopes of becoming a champion. Obviously, fighters, in general, struggle to make ends meet, and they risk everything to make so little, in the hopes to become recognized and sponsored by some big company. I want to give back to the fighters, because I know how much they struggle. Fighters need sponsors to be able to train. Unfortunately, they don't get paid a lot. We're not just for the fighters. We're for everyone that has a battle to fight or obstacles to overcome. We're all fighters in one way or another.
Stephie Daniels: With a family owned company like yours, was it a struggle or a financial burden to get everything together to become an official apparel sponsor within the UFC, and to sponsor leading names like Frankie Edgar,Jake Shields and several others?
David Makdessi: Getting in with the UFC was obviously a no brainer. I had to do it to back up my brother, but I also wanted to help out as many fighters as I could. Frankie Edgar is a family man, a respectable man. That's the kind of athlete that we want representing us, and that's the image we're trying to cultivate. It's that family element that we want to be recognized for. We're not going to be having crazy parties and things like that. It's not what we're about. It is a large financial undertaking and comes with a lot of responsibility. It's certainly not easy, and we definitely need the fans to support us so we can support the fighters.
Stephie Daniels: Some apparel companies have corporate backing, for instance, Jaco clothing is owned by Glenn Robinson, who also owns Iron Bridge Tools. Do you guys have any corporate backing or is this a grass roots, family operated company?
David Makdessi: We have no corporate backing whatsoever. This all comes out of our money. It's basically a family run business. It's not one of these big corporations that's come along to run people over, that just take your money and then walk away.
Stephie Daniels: How do you go about selecting the athletes that represent your company?
David Makdessi: I work with Hector Castro. He's one of our main guys, and we've worked around the clock to get good fighters in here. We want to help the ones that don't get the recognition that they deserve. There are so many fighters that unfortunately fly way under the radar, so we'd like to have an opportunity to help build them up and show them to the world. I like working with Hector. He cares about the fighters. That's why we're in this. It's not for a quick buck. We also don't like to do one fight deals. We like to do multiple fight contracts. It gives the guys some security knowing they don't have to be searching for sponsors every fight.
Stephie Daniels: With the fallout from UFC 151, a financial strain has been put upon the fighters. Most have been relocated to other cards, but it just pushes their paydays three weeks farther out. You came out within minutes of the card being cancelled, and announced that your sponsored fighters from the card would be paid their sponsor money in full. What prompted you to make such a generous gesture?
David Makdessi: Fighters, when they get sponsored, don't get paid their sponosr money immediately. Most companies issue their checks weeks or months after the event. When you delay their fight, you delay their sponsor money even more. We're taking care of our guys now. Not later. Now.
My fighters didn't even know at first. I twittered it then we got in contact with their managers to let them know. We wanted to make a public statement, and I didn't hesitate at all. Maybe other companies could do the same for their fighters. They have to pay their team for training costs, and bills, food, etc. We know how much these guys struggle, and we wanted to help alleviate some of the financial pressure from them. At the end of the day, I just wanted to take care of my guys. I'm sure they'll take care of us down the road. We're a family, and that's how family works.
Stephie Daniels: How many fighters did you have on the card?
David Makdessi: We only had two on this one. It wouldn't have mattered if there were 10. We would have done the exact same thing.
Stephie Daniels: Last thing here, I just want to thank you for offering something original, design-wise, and for more color variety.
David Makdessi: I appreciate the support, and I can promise you, you won't see skulls and chains and flames from Fear The Fighter.
You can follow Fear The Fighter via their Twitter account, @FearTheFighter