Originally By: Justin Bolduc Of Punch Drunk Gamer
Picking up where we left off last week with an update on Randy Couture’s situation with the UFC, Punch Drunk Gamer is delivering part two of a three part segment with a look at the life and career of Randy Couture.
This week’s edition features talk about the Xtreme Couture gyms – which are located in Las Vegas, Nevada, Vancouver, Washington, Wellington, Florida, and Lombard, Illinois. He discusses expansion, with plans to go international in Toronto, Canada, as well as where the idea for the training centers originally came from.
Following Couture’s win over Tim Sylvia at UFC 68 there has also been a surge in sales of Xtreme Couture clothing and gear.
Below is what Randy had to say about his brand. Stay tuned to next week’s MMA Access for the third and final installment of the epic Couture story, as well as a final transcript of the entire interview available exclusively at PunchDrunkGamer.
PDG: I wanted to ask you about the Xtreme Couture brand; going back to when it all started what kind of goals did you have for Xtreme Couture and what were some of the things that you wanted to do?
Randy: Well Xtreme Couture is a few different things now – it’s a clothing line and gyms, so I’m not sure what you’re asking about?
PDG: Everything. Since the start of the brand itself everything has snowballed.
Randy: It has. Well, first and foremost I wanted to create a training center. I moved to Vegas to get close to my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, Kim, and training here in this environment there were a lot of great fighters but no solid training centers that have everything you need – [Mark] Laimon’s school is great, but it’s pretty much just a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school, the Xyience training center at the time was very small and we could steal some mat time there in between the kids’ classes if we were lucky. We also got to use The Ultimate Fighter gym when there was no show being filmed – which it’s an awesome training center with everything you need – a full-sized cage, mats, a weight area and treadmills; so kind of being involved in the first season of The Ultimate Fighter I was really impressed with the set-up and though how cool it would be to have your own training center with all that stuff in place.
And obviously I’ve been one of the founding members of Team Quest – I started Team Quest up in Oregon. Team Quest turned out to be a pretty nice gym, but it certainly didn’t start out that way. It started out a little [place] in the back of a car lot with one wrestling mat [laughs]. We slowly kind of built it into what it is today where you’re no longer embarrassed to have the public in there, or people in there filming. It’s respectable and clean, but it still doesn’t have a full ring or cage and a full set of fitness equipment that you need to train and get ready for fights. You still need to go to 24 Hour Fitness or somewhere to do that other stuff.
Kind of seeing that blueprint and the need for a training center that would not only have all the equipment you need to train for fights, but also was interested in creating a staff – under one roof having a guy with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu background, another with a Muay Thai background, boxing guys, wrestling people that can not only teach classes in those individual disciplines and teach the public classes, but also help the professional fighters train. They would no longer have to run all over town to get those pieces and styles for the puzzle of MMA. They could come to one place and get it all under one roof.
My wife helped me considerably find a location and dial in all the things that we needed; and I started pulling in fighters – obviously all the guys already training with us wanted to be there. So we started finding the staff that was going to run the place, and we wanted to pay the fighters to teach the regular classes because that’s why people want to be there – to rub elbows with the real fighters, like Jay Hieron and Mike Pyle and Gray Maynard. You get to see Forrest Griffin maybe training once a twice a week in there.
Being a fighter, first and foremost I didn’t like that this guy was going to train you in jiu-jitsu and this guy was going to train you in Muay Thai, but both of them want ten percent of your fight purse to be your official trainer – everyone wants to dig into your pockets. I didn’t really want to do that with the Xtreme Couture gym. We decided “you know what, these guys are members just like everybody else.” Just because they are a fighter we’ll give you that two hour block of training from four to six everyday, and obviously you can come in and use the equipment anytime you want, but other than that pay a membership like everyone else. So instead of taking from their purse they just pay a membership fee like all the other members. I think that that took a bunch of heat off having to negotiate with each individual fighter that wanted to make that their training home and just make it an environment about training and pushing each other and helping each other out. It started with us at the top and the way we wanted to run the place and trickled down to the brand new fighters coming in getting their feet wet who just decided that fighting is for them. So it created a unique environment that was in a nicely run facility, and a lot of people are using that model for what an MMA gym should look like.
PDG: Your gyms have gained a lot of attention, everyone knows about them. Now when someone says they are training at Xtreme Couture it’s immediately recognized as one of the top places you can go right now. So at this point what is that like for you – it’s been a very short amount of time?
Randy: We’ll have been open for one year this February. So in a short amount of time we have five training centers open, and of those five the Vegas gym is sort of the center, corporate model.
The Wellington, Florida gym was the first kind of licensee franchise that opened. Dan Amato purchased a licensing agreement and built that gym, modeling it after the Vegas gym and he put together a really good staff with a good group of guys that are winning grappling tournaments and stuff to perpetuate the Xtreme Couture brand.
We own the other one in Vancouver, Washington that is a nice area, but not a real hot spot for fighting, at least right now. There are no real notable fighters coming out of that area. Those fighters are kind of your marketing tool when they are out wearing your stuff and representing your brand in the community. It has done fine but it hasn’t achieved what the West Palm Beach Xtreme Couture has.
The Chicago branch has just now opened just two months ago and it’s already off and running and doing very well. Pete Becker and Eric Wetzel are running it and are doing a great job. So I am sure you are going to see some pretty interesting fighters coming out of the Chicago area associated with Xtreme Couture.
We’ve sold two more licenses, one in Kansas City and one in Toronto. Both of those will be open in the early part of 2008. We’re excited to see our first international gym open up in Toronto. It’s a great city with a lot of interest in MMA. We’re helping hopefully to lobby to get MMA sanctioned in Ontario – it’s one of the few provinces in Canada that doesn’t have it sanctioned at this time.
PDG: Is there anywhere you’d also like to expand – either in America or internationally, to host gyms?
Randy: I think there are some logical places – obviously New York, with the population base and the fan base in and around New York City. There’s already been minor interest in New York.
There is another man that is in the process of purchasing a licensing agreement from us for Honolulu, Hawaii; which will be interesting. And we’ve also had interest in the U.K. – London, again, with the state of mixed martial arts in the U.K. which would be huge. So with those three areas with the right people would be very cool to expand to.
PDG: How about your clothing line?
Randy: The Xtreme Couture clothing line is the second piece of the puzzle. My wife was working for Wynn Resorts in executive marketing. She ran into some players that didn’t know anything about MMA but they ran a licensing company that did clothing lines and had an energy drink called Who’s Your Daddy?
She was talking about me and they wanted to meet so I came in and had dinner with them. These guys are like twenty-eight, twenty-nine year old guys and they run a multi-million dollar company – which is pretty impressive. So they are like with a name like Couture you need to do a clothing line. They were kind of in the middle of doing theirs and said they could show me how to do a lot of that stuff and share some ideas.
So they came back in about a week with a catalog. Basically they put together, with their staff, a catalog of clothes and stuff. We came up with the name Xtreme Couture, we liked Xtreme Couture. So we started trade marking the name for various things through their attorney and were going to create what they call a reverse merger – which is a small stock company that would be a publicly traded company with Xtreme Couture clothing. We started doing more investigating because I’m the furthest thing from a savvy business man [laughs]. I found out there were a lot of issues and problems with those types of companies and decided that that was not the kind of headache that I needed. So we kind of pulled back from the Who’s Your Daddy? model – and they didn’t really care, they had their deal going on with their energy drinks and stuff; but we still had the idea and the trademarks.
When I started looking at coming out of retirement I was approached by Todd from Affliction. He wanted us to wear an Affliction shirt to my next fight. They wanted to sponsor me and make it a signature shirt. We struck up the sponsorship deal and after the fight the shirt just went crazy, we sold tons and tons and tons of that signature shirt. Todd started looking at the gym and the clothes with a name like Couture and it kind of fit so he talked to me about forming a partnership with our trademark and Affliction and doing more of an athletic line along the lines of Affliction’s clothes. It seemed like a perfect fit. This last six months we’ve been on the market it’s just gone crazy. We’re going to be in all these stores like The Buckle all across the country and we can’t keep up, it’s just awesome.
Todd’s obviously very, very good at what he does with both the manufacturing side and the distribution side and I was very lucky I guess to be born with a last name like Couture, so things worked out.
To read part one of this story click here.