In MMA, sometimes hype isn't just the biggest thing, it's the only thing. And after years of sponsoring fighters, and even UFC events, Respect Your Universe (RYU) clothing and apparel is getting out of MMA. New RYU CEO, Christopher Martens, was quoted at IngrainedMedia.com:
The new CEO of RYU said "That direct association with the sport and the UFC has ended. Endorsement deals with individual fighters and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) expired in December and will not be renewed." He continued "The MMA community is a small market, even when I ran Sports Authority I didn't want anything to do with MMA brands. There's not enough opportunity."
It's a hard truth for fans, that despite the growth, the TV deals, and the new markets yet untouched, MMA is still very much a niche industry in the corporate world. And for a company looking to focus on a broader appeal, the money spent on developing MMA products and MMA advertising could most likely go a lot further somewhere else.
Adding insult to injury in all this, is that RYU's flagship fighter was the recently released Jon Fitch. RYU's decision to step back from MMA was apparently made in December, so it's almost certainly nothing more than a harsh coincidence, but it's another unfortunate blow to a fighter fallen on hard times. Other RYU sponsored fighters include Cheick Kongo, Ben Askren, and Jamie Varner.
In 2012 RYU opened a training center in Las Vegas, as well as its own retail outlet. But, the high expectations of a MMA hungry marketplace, eventually came to naught:
45,726 - 73,940 - 69,534
Total operating expenses:
(2,656,373) (1,561,512) (4,623,121) (1,723,108) (12,843,991)
$ (2,610,647 )
Considering that this is not the first MMA clothing brand to fall on hard times, the message is clear, MMA is not yet a stable growth industry for companies looking to build off its successes. The money and the deals that the UFC and Bellator have made are largely theirs alone and it will be some time yet before that landscape changes.
RYU has long been about producing organic sustainable sports apparel, and while they are expected to continue doing so, it's unclear exactly how much re-branding they will undergo in the coming months.
(financial data via otcmarkets.com, numbers breakdown via IngrainedMedia.com)