Trends & Features

There’s more to fightwear than the fight market, Fighters Inc director Paul Alderson says

And there’s no better way to prove it than with urban fightwear brand Kraken. Louise Ramsay reports

Boxing gloves, silky shorts and headguards. And, of course, those ubiquitous thick cotton jackets that tie up round the waist. It’s easy to think that’s all there is to fightwear – and no one would be interested in it unless they enjoyed combat sports. But according to Fighters Inc director Paul Alderson, nothing could be further from the truth.

There’s no doubt Alderson knows about fighting. He not only represented Great Britain in karate between the ages of 17 and 26, he also held the world open weight karate title in 1996.

But for him, winning was about more than just knowing how to land a good strike. As in most sports, it was about hard work and good preparation too, skills he’s put to good use in the world of business.

Business founded in 1997
Alderson and Joe Long set up Fighters Inc in 1997, working primarily as a sports marketing agency specialising in combat and strength-based sporting genres.

Alderson says: “We work with brands, media and promoters who want to actively target markets such as fightsports, martial arts, power sports and functional fitness. We started by producing a range of innovative events and exhibitions to help develop the fightsports sector and recently we have launched the store to distribute some of the products we now represent and promote.”

Kraken brand
One of the brands Fighters Inc has just started to work with is French-made fightwear brand Kraken. The ultimate in urban cool, it has its origins in Brazilian jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts.

“It had no traction in the UK, but we found the product so unique and to have so much potential, we were really keen to take it on,” Alderson says. “One of its main strengths is that it has appeal not just in the fight market, but also outside of it. It transcends MMA and martial arts in that its quality is borne out of fightsports apparel, but it exists as urban sports and fitnesswear too.

“The feedback we get from our buyers and sponsored athletes is fantastic and non-stop. It’s refreshing to see disciplines such as parkour and functional fitness wearing the brand too.”

Kraken produces a range of fightwear as well as lifestyle products. “I think outside of fightwear, all of it has a wide appeal,” Alderson explains. “The hoodies and t-shirts are silicone printed and half the range is made as fitted garments, which is getting people talking. There’s a female range being developed too, which is launching this year.

“The problem is that unless retailers are already dealing in the fight market, they might not be aware of the amazing quality and competitiveness of the brand at the high end of the sector. Kraken not only has the quality, but because of its identity also appeals outside of fightsports.”

Developing market
Fighters Inc isn’t the first company to think about selling fightwear outside of the fight world. “adidas has developed boxing and taekwondo trainingwear and training kit,” Alderson says. “Reebok is also working with the fight fitness concept, which is proving to be highly successful in gyms nationwide.

“Lonsdale is the brand people traditionally associate with boxing, but I think adidas has done a fantastic job of developing a strong martial arts and fightsports range of gloves and fight apparel. Because of its sponsorship associations, it has credibility in the sector, which is hard to achieve as a mainstream sports brand because fighters like to wear niche fightwear.”

Kappa is another brand that’s moving into the fightwear market with judo and karate apparel. Alderson adds: “They’ve seen how well adidas has developed, though it’ll be a while before they can compete because they have to first generate the right publicity.”

Sales potential
In terms of the fight market, things are looking good.

“MMA and boxing are seeing good growth in terms of spectators and participation at all levels of martial arts has always been high,” Alderson says.

“The diversity of martial arts is its key. Dance is the closest comparison I can make, not just because of the huge range of styles and disciplines, but also because there’s something for everyone.

“There are no lifestyle barriers. Sometimes though that diversity can be a hindrance in the marketplace. The sport is just so wide ranging sports retailers can’t even attempt to try to cover all martial sports, so they just carry protection. Kraken is the brand that can bridge that gap.”

SENI Combat and Strength Show
Kraken is one of the sponsors of the SENI Combat and Strength Show, which takes place at The O2 in London on July 16-17.

“It’ll be a great opportunity for retailers to pop down to take a look at the action and the range,” Paul Alderson says. “The show is the original exhibition for combat sports, which we first launched at the NEC in 1999. It moved to ExCeL in 2007 and then in 2014 to The O2. We work with a network of the best people in their fields to put on a large array of live events across two days.”

This year sees a huge amount of activity – far too much to talk about here, or even try out on the day, but the highlights are truly tempting.

“There’s a first UK show by Viacom’s Bellator MMA, as well as the first Giants Live amateur strongman competition across all weights,” Alderson says.

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