Streetwear and sports pretty much go hand in hand. Whether it’s the trend for American sports team caps, NBA/NFL logo rips with varying degrees of success or the continued dominance of Jordans and LeBrons, you’re never too far from sport-influenced streetwear. Indeed brands such as Undefeated are quite sports-centric in their approach, and their latest line of performance sportswear is further lessening that gap between core street brands and established sportswear giants. We’ve also seen these same big sports brands get in on the action with dedicated streetwear lines and tiered product offerings. Basketball, running, football and its American counterpart all seem well accounted for in this mix, and we’ve seen some pretty cool crossover product come our way here at Urban Industry. Why then do these same big brands have little or no presence in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA)? The popularity of MMA over the past two decades has been nothing short of meteoric with organisations such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bringing the sport into the mainstream and establishing its fighters as household names. Where then are the big endorsement deals or limited releases? Where are the Swooshes and Trefoils in the octagon?
Now, I’m a complete novice when it comes to MMA, UFC and all that. I’ve been boxing for a couple of months here at a local mixed martial arts gym here in Eastbourne, and have recently taken up Muay Thai kickboxing. I’m by no means the sporty type; I’d pretty much abandoned all kinds of physical activity since I was made to do P.E. at school. Since starting these classes though, I’ve jumped head-first into this whole new world and am soaking up as much as I can. Much like learning about new brands or music, I’ve found myself going through whole back catalogues of DVDs and playing catch-up. What I’ve also been looking at is the connection between my day-job and my night-time pursuits. I started with Nike first. Surely, they should be allover MMA much like they are with most other sports. What I’ve found though is that it’s pretty much early days and that core fight brands such as Hayabusa, Tapout and Fairtex still dominate. The current Nike Pro Combat range seems to be widely adopted by those practicing mixed martial arts, but there doesn’t seem to be a dedicated range per se. Nike seem to be pinning their hopes on current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones as being the face of their efforts. We’ve seen a Jones makeup of a Nike Free Run 5.0 that looks suitably tough, and hopefully this will be a positive sign of things to come.
On the streetwear side of things, brands such as Mishka have used their Bloglin as a solid source of news updates and reviews for all things MMA related. Indeed we’ve seen them produce lookbooks with fighters such as Diego Lopez (photographed by Skulls’ own Ivan Jimanez). The Undefeated x Bape Fall/Winter 12 collaboration also made good use of a fighting gym to add an edge to their offerings. We’ve even seen more mainstream brands such as RVCA produce MMA gear and sponsor many top fighters in the octagon. The guys I train with are all young and as fashion-conscious as any other Urban Industry customer. While the UFC and other organisations may still be awash with some rather sketchy tribal design/allover skull print t-shirts, perhaps we’re growing towards a different breed of fighter and fight fan. Will it be long before we see the Keep Watch eyeball or an Undefeated 5-Strike logo adorning a fighter’s gear? Or will we be riding the waves of hype for Jon Jones Retro IVs in years to come? Who knows; but either way it’ll definitely be interesting to see how the sport continues to grow and how all these different brands get on board with it.