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Editor's Note: The View From Inside the Ring

Entrepreneur's editor-in-chief gets a first-hand look at the passion of MMA culture.

This story appears in the May 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Editor's Note: The View From Inside the Ring

I'll be the first to admit it: I had reservations about running a story on the apparel businesses orbiting the controversial sport of mixed martial arts. I mean, MMA fights take place in a cage, with barely gloved hands, bare feet and very few rules. It's blood sport, right?

The answer to that question depends on who you ask. But here's what's certain: The $1 billion industry is impossible to ignore. MMA bouts are in heavy rotation on cable and pay-per-view. Clothing from the likes of Affliction and competitor TapouT hang from the bodies of millions of 18- to 34-year-old males. So we kicked the idea around and decided that anything so controversial--and so profitable--is worthy of our cover.

We were right. As Dennis Romero's story (" A Roundhouse Kick in the Pants,") explains, MMA is about more than just money and blood (although flying fists add to its sex appeal). It's about a subculture of enthusiasts and the lengths they'll go to (read: the prices they'll pay) to show their support for a bunch of roughnecks whose purpose in life is to flirt with death. MMA is one of those passion-to-the-pocketbook business stories that shapes enthusiast business models.

As more and more companies try to ride the MMA wave, Affliction continues to expand its clothing line--and reputation--beyond the ring into higher-end evening wear. Co-founder Eric Foss even has his sights on the women's market.

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