All I Want for Christmas is a Round 5 MMA Collectible
MMA merchandising has generally been relegated to pricey apparel and fight equipment. In 2008, Round 5 has bucked this trend and has successfully launched a product that is outside of the usual MMA merchandise – MMA action figure collectibles. Series 1 of Round 5’s figures were released in April 2008 and feature MMA stars Rampage Jackson, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, and Randy Couture. Series 2 was released this quarter and feature Sean Sherk, Rich Franklin, Wanderlei Silva, and Anderson Silva.
Cageplay.com recently had the opportunity to talk to Damon Lau, the co-founder and President of Round 5 to discuss his company’s line of collectibles. Lau is a big MMA fan who also runs a midsize advertising agency. “I was the guy who was on the forums reading PRIDE results when they were not available on Pay Per View. ” A good friend of Randy Couture, he and Couture were having dinner when they started talking about possible MMA products. While laughing about Couture’s idea of selling plastic cauliflower ears, Lau suggested action figures and the idea took off. Lau started the ball rolling on the MMA collectible figures and Randy signed as the first fighter.
The success of the Round 5 collectibles comes at an interesting time, because the UFC has signed on with Jakks to make UFC action figures and with THQ to make a UFC video game. These deals have encountered delays as the UFC tries to get fighters to sign over the rights of their likeness to the UFC, but fighters are balking at the low compensation in return. Round 5 has not had these issues. According to Lau, “Round 5 is a different type of company. Our percentages that we give the fighters is four or five times what is normal in the toy licensing industry. Our agreements are not in perpetuity and we are a fighter friendly company. That is why we have been able to sign the fighters that we have.”
The figurines look fantastic but they are definitely not for fans looking for action figures to play with. These figures are definitely collectibles that should sit on the top of your cubicle. Lau calls his creation a “combination of the old Japanese PRIDE dolls with a Marvel comic superhero look to them.” How does Round 5 design the collectibles? “The fighters have 100% creative control. They are responsible for their poses, what their face looks like, the fighter even sells sponsorship spots on his shorts.”
Round 5 is planning for a big 2009. They have designs on releasing a new series every quarter and have the fighters signed up already. Who will be released in the future? Lau remains tight-lipped but he did tell Cageplay to expect a female fighter to be released (Gina Carano?). Although unconfirmed, two other fighters that Lau would not deny are Fedor and Arlovski who will be facing off at Affliction in January.
The figures are available on the Round5mma.com website and at over 3,000 stores in North America. “I expect to be in 10,000 by this time next year,” claims Damon. In Canada, MMA fans can find them at Champs and Toys ‘R Us and American fans can find them at Champs, KB Toys, and F.Y.E. stores among others. Unlike the $75 Affliction shirts and the $50 Tapout hoodie, the Round 5 figurines are inexpensive at around $17. Immediately after this interview, I headed to Toys R Us to pick up my own Wanderlei Silva to put on my cubicle beside my Bob and Doug MacKenzie figures. Unfortunately, none could be found in time for a picture for this article. Oh well, they are the perfect size for my Christmas stocking.