Monday, October 3, 2011

In Sam's Hands We Trust - The Fight Mafia "Our Story."

(Photo Credit;  Sam Stout post-fight interview with Joe Rogan at UFC 97, Montreal, Quebec, CAN.)
Posted: by T.F.M. Staff / Written: by N. Brooks. April 4, 2010.

We started out in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, we then transitioned into a lifestyle, now we are what some consider an innovative sub-culture of "Organized Grind."

My name is Noel Brooks and I am president and founder of The Fight Mafia (TFM) Incorporated.  I love my family, I love my friends, and one of my passions is Mixed Martial Arts and everything that surrounds it.  Thousands of people take shots every day, some hit, some miss.  Here is my journey… 

How was The Fight Mafia (TFM) brand created?  What does The Fight Mafia represent?  Let's begin in October of 2007.  I was working as a remedial laborer at a local truck factory and I was very unhappy with where my life had ended up.  I didn't make much money and to say the least, there were not many bright spots in my life.  My only passion at the time was Mixed Martial Arts.  My life consisted of working, hating my life, contemplating suicide, and watching MMA/UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).  I had never been to a live event before and I thought a good way to keep my mind off suicide for a few days was to travel to Cincinnati, Ohio for UFC 77.  I drained my bank account, bought two tickets to the event and my girlfriend and I got into the car and drove 5 hours to Cincinnati.  As soon as we arrived, the city was on fire!  I was in awe and for the first time in years, I was momentarily content!  I couldn't believe how many people had traveled from so many different places to see these great athletes compete.  I felt at home and at peace.  That's what MMA does for me; it seems to make everything make sense.  My girlfriend and I went to the weigh-ins and did some sight-seeing and I couldn't believe how many famous fighters I was able to meet just walking the streets of Cincinnati.  One of those fighters that I met that weekend was Houston "The Assassin" Alexander.  I ran into him at an Underground Railroad Museum.  I was star-struck!  Houston was on his way to becoming a mega-superstar in the UFC as his last two fights were incredible knockout victories over top-tier talent.  Houston took a few pictures with us and then we all continued about our day.  Little did I realize…  That moment would spark a change in my life forever?  The weekend was one of the best weekends of my life and the fights were amazing.  I was already in love with the UFC, but seeing it live marked the moment where I knew it was much more than just a past-time.  We returned home the day after UFC 77 and it was back to reality, my shitty life was right there waiting for me.  There are highs and lows in life but for me, returning home was like winning the lottery and the next day being sentenced to life in prison.

Along my regular internet travels I stumbled upon Houston Alexander's website and I decided to email him.  I basically stated that we had met in Cincinnati and that I was a new apparel company and I was interested in designing his next UFC entrance shirt.  At that time, this statement was of course false.  I felt I might get a response if I somewhat lied about who I was.  I have always had a fascination with MMA entrance shirts and the entrance music in which fighters choose.  To me, emailing Houston Alexander was just something I did for fun, I never actually thought I would get a response, and of course I was far from an apparel company at the time.  I was actually a lost, suicidal 28 year old "nobody" without a glimmer of hope for the future.  A few months went by and I had forgotten all about my email to Houston Alexander until one day I was lying in bed depressed when the phone rang and my girlfriend came running into the room stating that Houston Alexander was on the phone.  I was astonished!  I couldn't believe it.  Houston told me to give him a call back later on that night and of course I did.  He was actually interested in me designing a shirt for his next fight.  After I hung up the phone with Houston, it took me a few minutes to calm down but when I did, I thought to myself, "What in the hell am I going to do?"  "I'm no apparel company."  After some complex thought, I decided to run with this new found opportunity.  I quickly thought of a name and designed a logo and began designing a shirt.  I had no experience, a computer that barely worked and no software, no money and a broken cell phone.  I visited a local screen printer and quickly discovered that I only had enough money to produce 12 shirts and a one-color print was my only option.  The shirts turned out terrible!  They were absolutely garbage but I remained positive because for the first time in my life I was doing something that I loved.  I had invested $200 into 12 pitiful shirts and once again I was flat broke.  I didn't want to send those shirts to Mr. Alexander but I had no other choice because I had nothing else to send and no money to produce anything better.  I have never heard from Houston Alexander since our first conversation and I don't blame him.  I still wonder what he did with those shirts and if he ever wore them?  When Houston Alexander got released from the UFC recently, it was a sad day for my family and I, as Houston was responsible for the creation of The Fight Mafia brand.  If he wouldn't have called me that day back in 2008, The Fight Mafia would probably not exist and who knows where I would be?  That's how The Fight Mafia brand was created and the story gets even better...

A few more months went by and not too many things yet had changed other than the fact that I was still working at the factory and I had replenished my bank account to its usual $200.  I did however have a new found purpose in life.  I was determined to make a go of this "Fight Mafia" thing.  I believed that everything happened for a reason and I was going to die trying to get this business off the ground.  I had no contacts in the business, not one phone number, not one email address, I had nothing.  I searched and searched for anyone or anything that could help me out.  I couldn't get in contact with any fighters or any managers and or anyone remotely close to the UFC or even involved with the sport of MMA.  I was completely out of my element and out of my league.  I live in Chatham, Ontario Canada which is a very small city and not much of anything goes on here.  Although there was one advantage to my remote location, and that being UFC fighter Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout.  Sam lives in London, Ontario Canada which is about an hour drive from my home.  Sam is a local MMA hero in our parts and I thought there might be a chance I could get in contact with him.  I searched the internet and phone books for contact info and couldn't come up with anything.  I was losing hope as I quickly discovered celebrity fighters are very difficult to get in touch with.  I had one more hare-brained idea to look for Sam on the social networking website Facebook and to my surprise I found him.  I quickly messaged him on Facebook and within a couple hours he responded.  He gave me his agent's name (Jake) and phone number and left it at that.  I was flabbergasted, I finally had a contact!  The next day I gave Sam Stout's agent a call and we immediately clicked.  For whatever reason, Sam's agent seemed to like me and felt my passion for MMA through my voice.  He was a fast talking big-timer from Las Vegas and from him I quickly learned how to talk to people in the business without sounding like an amateur.  I told him I wanted to design an entrance shirt for Sam's upcoming fight with Matt Wiman at UFC 97 in Montreal.  He told me to give him a few days to mull it over and he would get back to me.  Sam's fight was scheduled to be the first fight of the night on the non-televised portion of the PPV, but I felt that if I was granted this opportunity, it would be an unbelievable start for my new company.  A few days passed when I finally got the call from Sam's agent.  I will never forget those words, "We are going to go with you for Sam's shirt for UFC 97!"  I cheered out-loud, I just couldn't believe it.  I still had a shirt to design and a lot of work to do but my foot was finally in the door!

It took me a few weeks to design a couple shirts for me to send to Sam for him to look over and choose which one he liked.  Luckily he chose the one I was hoping he would choose and I instantly put it into production.  To save time and money, I myself worked with a local screen printer in the production of the shirts.  I still to this day think that The Fight Mafia's Sam Stout shirt is one of the best **designed** MMA shirts of all-time (but then again, I am extremely biased).  I remember being at the screen printer's shop until 5am finishing the shirts and then driving 8 hours straight to Montreal to get Sam his shirts in time for the weigh-ins.  I met Sam in the lobby of his hotel and he was in the middle of cutting weight and he was completely exhausted.  We took the elevator up to his room so he could try the shirts on.  Once we had a good fit, Sam passed out on the bed and rested waiting to weigh-in.  I wished him good luck and left him to be alone with his family and friends.  My girlfriend and I went about our business until it was time to go to the weigh-ins.  I still remember being at the weigh-ins and looking behind the curtain backstage and seeing The Fight Mafia shirts everywhere.  Superstars Shawn Tomkins (RIP), Chris Horodecki, Mark Hominick, and the rest of "Team Stout" were proudly sporting my gear.  I had a hard time containing myself, I felt as if I was finally making something of my life.  When Sam came running out to weigh-in in my shirt in front of 10,000 fans, I lost it!  My girlfriend was balling her eyes out as she knew what I had been through and how much I truly love this sport.  I was on such an adrenaline high that when the weigh-ins were all over I could do nothing but sleep.  After the weigh-ins we went back to the hotel and crashed and I was okay with that because the next day was to be the highlight of my life.

I woke up early Saturday morning with incredible anxiety.  I was extremely nervous as today was fight night and I didn't know what to expect.  I just couldn't wait to walk through the doors of the Bell Centre.  Before we left the hotel, I got down on my knees and prayed as hard as I could.  I thanked God for finally allowing me to do what I loved to do and prayed for Sam's success.  When I rose to my feet, something just came over me and I began to cry violently.  I have never cried so hard in my life.  My wonderful girlfriend hugged me and whispered in my ear that she was so proud of me.  It took me about 20 minutes to contain myself and when I finally gained my composure, it was time to hit the streets.  Before the doors opened to the event, my girlfriend and I decided that we would attempt to sell some shirts on the streets of Montreal to try and to raise some spending cash as of course we were flat broke.  If you were in Montreal that night, you might remember me outside of the Bell Centre slanging Sam Stout t-shirts out of the trunk of my car.  We were able to sell a large amount of shirts before we were almost arrested by Montreal police.  They let us off with a warning and we closed up shop and entered the Bell Centre.  I was once again at my favorite place in the world, at a live UFC event.  We grabbed a couple beers and went to our seats.  I never miss the first fight of the night regardless, but this time it meant so much more.  Little did I know I was about to go through the biggest emotional rollercoaster of my life.  When the lights went off to start the show, I felt like I was going to throw up.  The promotional video blasted onto the jumbo-screen promoting the first fight of the night and it wasn't Sam Stout's bout.  My heart dropped, thoughts started racing through my mind.  I started to believe that Sam's fight had gotten cancelled.  Fight after fight continued on and still no Sam Stout.  The night crept closer and closer to 10 o'clock when the PPV goes live on television and still no Sam Stout.  When Bruce Buffer announced to the crowd that, "WE ARE LIVE!"  I didn't know what to think?  I remained optimistic and believed that maybe Sam's fight had made the televised portion of the card and millions of people were going to see my shirt.  Of course 3 fights into the PPV and still no Sam Stout.  By the time the co-main event began I had lost all hope.  I believed Sam's fight had been canceled and my dreams had been crushed.  The co-main event was Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and I couldn't care less.  I was completely depressed and when that fight ended I just wanted to break down and cry.  Then one of the greatest moments of my life occurred.  Once again the jumbo-screen blasted out a promotional video highlighting the next fight.  It was finally Sam Stout vs. Matt Wiman!  I have never cheered so loud in my whole life.  Matt Wiman entered the cage first and when Sam Stout and his corners came out wearing my bright red shirts, I almost fainted.  My girlfriend of course was crying again but this time it was clearly tears of joy!  Sam put on the performance of his life and won a close 3 round decision.  When Sam walked past me leaving the cage, I was completely geeked.  I couldn't help but grab him.  I was overjoyed!  I owe much of my success to Sam Stout, I almost owe him my life.  The main-event was a bonafide snooze-fest and all who saw the show know that Sam's fight was the best of the night.  UFC President Dana White awarded Sam's fight with "Fight of the Night" honors which meant an extra $70,000 in Sam's pocket.  That was the icing on the cake.  I was so proud of Sam.  I was actually quite proud of myself.  In one night, my life changed forever.

When I returned home from Montreal, my hometown was a buzz.  I was officially an overnight success story.  I began receiving 100 emails a day to go along with a comparable number of phone calls.  People across the world wanted The Fight Mafia branded Sam Stout shirt.  We began doing thousands of dollars in sales each week.  I wonder what kind of numbers we would have done if we had a proper website at that time.  Every day I would log onto my barely functioning computer hoping that I didn't receive too many orders that day.  The reason being I was all by myself and I just couldn't keep up.  I was still working midnight's at the factory and producing shirts and shipping them out during the day.  I barely slept and I was super stressed-out but I was the happiest I had been in years.  I was finally doing what I loved and I felt I was showing the world that anything is possible.  That wasn't that long ago.  UFC 97 was April 18th, 2009.  Since then we have grown to become a globally recognized brand and are featured all across the world.  In June of 2009, I finally decided to quit my job and do The Fight Mafia thing full-time.  It's a dream come true.  I get emails, phone calls, and orders from all over the world including Australia, New Zealand, England, Spain, Italy, Brazil, etc.  I have been told that nobody has done what I have done and in the time-frame that I did it in, with no money, no connections and no experience.  Not bad for a $200 investment.  It's been a really long road in a very short period of time and I wouldn't trade one minute of it.  Even the unfortunate circumstances that we sometimes experience...  And we have experienced some huge unfortunate circumstances, it's all a part of the journey.  And although we have made mistakes and screwed some things up and pissed a few people off, it's all a part of the journey.  The Fight Mafia (TFM) isn't a gimmick.  It's my life, and it's everything I have been through and the obstacles I have had to overcome to follow a dream and to achieve success.  It’s the armor I was wearing on those days.  It's about perseverance and fighting for what you want out of life.  It represents strength and the lessons one learns through life's trials and tribulations otherwise known as the daily grind.  I wear TFM gear almost every day, not because it is my company and I want to promote my own gear, but rather to remind me every day of the struggle I went through and continue to go through.  The Fight Mafia brand is for anyone who is willing to fight.  The Fight Mafia is a lifestyle brand but I also refer to it as a life brand.  Lifestyle is how you live.  Life is what you live.  We live this.  No matter what, we will always remain true to what we are about.  I consider some of the other brands in our industry as "Watch the movie" type brands.  The Fight Mafia is a "Read the book" type brand.  We relish in the fact of being a “Rocky” or “Cinderella Man” type company.  We literally had to fight, hustle, and grind to get where we are but those who live our lifestyle know that’s an everyday thing, that’s the norm.  The Fight Mafia Incorporated is “Organized Grind.”  The hustle is real.  The brand is real...  It is what it is...