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The Interview: CEO and Co-Founder of Fight Chix Elisabeth Nuesser

Along with her husband Jake, CEO and Co-Founder of Fight Chix, Elisabeth Nuesser has helped put her brand and clothing line on the forefront of women’s mixed martial arts. Starting a just a hobby it has exploded to become one of the most recognizable brands in all of MMA, not just women. Enjoy our conversation with Elisabeth as she explains the birth of Fight Chix, where they are going and her thoughts on women’s MMA today. Plus, she tells us who she most wants to see fight!

With the explosion of Women on the Mixed Martial Arts scene, Fight Chix has been at the forefront as a recognized brand and sponsor. It’s not just women, men are rocking your shirts too. How would you explain your brand to those that are new to it and what sets Fight Chix apart from other MMA brands and apparel companies?

Elisabeth: Yes, Fight Chix has been the premier brand in the mixed martial arts industry for quite some time now. We are coming up on our 8 year anniversary in business. We started out selling at local shows supporting our local fighters and catering the women fans of the sport. We made a few shirts, built a website, and used Myspace to help create our name. We started off as a hobby and very grass roots and have grown into an internationally recognized brand, but we maintain that grassroots attitude. We are not just Fight Chix for the MMA community we are a women’s lifestyle brand that is about empowering women. All types of females in all age ranges identify themselves through our logo. It represents a different feeling in everyone, which I think is really awesome. We created a brand and Jake designed a logo that all women can relate to in their own way. Our roots are in MMA and will always be that way. I feel we are very different from other companies out there because we never followed what the other companies were doing, we always worried about us. We’ve stayed true to our vision, to our fans, and to ourselves. Jake is the VP and the Art Director of Fight Chix I am the CEO and run the day to day operations, business deals, sponsorships, etc. We have worked as a team to build our company based on connecting with our customers on a daily basis and putting a lot of love into everything we do.

Back in 2006, when you started Fight Chix I read you were waiting tables when after a bad night the idea hit you. Over the last 7 years the brand’s growth has been amazing. For the readers that don’t know, can you tell us a little bit about the start and growth of Fight Chix? How as CEO have you grown along with the brand?

Elisabeth: We have been involved within the MMA community for about 8 years now with Fight Chix, but my husband Jake has been involved with mixed martial arts since he was very young. He is the reason why I fell in love with this sport. He first introduced MMA to me back when we met in 2004. At first I was very turned off and I did not like seeing these guys getting into a cage a beating the crap out of each other…it was strange to me and very barbaric. As I became more educated about the sport and Jake would show me more fights on video tapes, and online (yes I said video tapes) lol…back then none of these fights were really televised. The sport grew on me more and then when the first season of the Ultimate Fighter came out I quickly became engulfed! I saw that these were real people with lives like the rest of us but their career was in fighting and they were true athletes fighting to make a living. We started Fight Chix to create a name and brand that targeted women who loved the sport like I did and wanted to wear t-shirts that were cute, fun, and sexy. I loved the sport but there really was nothing for women like me to wear that acknowledged that. We started out small thinking this was a little side project for fun for Jake and I..then it became very real that we really wanted more out of Fight Chix and wanted to help female fighters. One of our first sponsorships was with Miesha Tate in her first ammy fights. We worked odd jobs to pay for Fight Chix to survive. Jake and I both worked full time jobs we have two children they are 14 and 7 now, it has been quite the long journey. We never took on an investor, we started this company from literally the ground up. The basis of our team has been myself, Jake, my best friend Miss RaRa who helped us getting introduced to people in the MMA community, and my brother Trevor who has handled a lot of our marketing and promotions. Being the CEO has definitely taught me a lot throughout the years. I have learned there is always tomorrow to get things done, that I am only one person and I can only do so much. I have and will always remain honest with our customers, fans, and athletes we’ve worked with to build long lasting relationships.

Almost every major women’s MMA athlete has a customized Fight Chix walkout shirt. From Ronda Rousey to Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano. Who have been some of your favorite fighters to work with and what have been some of your favorite shirt designs you’ve come up with?

Elisabeth: We currently work with Cat Zingano and designed her fighting Alpha Cat signature shirt. We launched it and worked a sponsorship deal with her right before she was to fight Miesha Tate. We have also been working with Cat since her first amateur fights as well. We loved working with Liz Carmouche and her “Hurricane Awesome” trainer Manny! We did a signature tee for her prior to her fight with Ronda. Pretty much all the women everyone is NOW seeing we’ve worked with and have supported. 😉 One of our favorite fighters that we’ve always worked with, and I have admired is Roxanne Modafferi. I was so excited to see her get into the TUF house on this season. We have also worked with and designed a signature tee for Zoila Frausto-Gurgel who has fought for formerly Strikeforce, and Bellator. We have been supporting and sponsoring Miesha Tate for a long time she is great to work with and I enjoy hanging out with her on a friend level as well. We have sent gear to Ronda as well and we have donated and helped her mom’s judo club she teaches. The whole Rousey family is really an amazing group of people.

How has having Invicta Fighting Championships grow so rapidly helped your brand? Do you have an agreement with them or are they someone you would like to partner up with? Fight Chix MMA has a good ring to it. Any thoughts of growing into your own brand into a promotion in a few years or are you happy with your niche in the marketplace? Where would you like to take Fight Chix in the future as your brand continues to develop?

Elisabeth: I think what Invicta has been doing for the WMMA community has been Amazing! Shannon Knapp is a veteran in the MMA industry and has worked for every major promotion in some way. She is doing great things with Invicta to help grow the female side of the sport and have a place for female fighters to shine in a spotlight and compete to show their potential. She is an amazing lady and inspiration.

As far as building a promotion we had joked about it in the past would be cool having our name as a promotion but we have always wanted to just stay a clothing brand to support WMMA.

We are really happy with where our company is and the direction we will continue to grow it is mainly online. We are focusing on our website going forward and creating an experience for our customers. I hand write thank you notes in each order that goes out… and I also hand wrap each order myself with love and ship out each order. We take a lot of pride in having good customer service and I personally get back to each e-mail as best I can and help create a relationship with people. By doing all of these things I know 2014 will be even bigger and better!

Like we said earlier… With the women exploding on the scene right now in MMA, what do you think of the growth of it and where do you see it going in the future? As a fight fan, who are some of your favorite male and female fighters to watch? Which fights are you really looking forward to and what dream matchup would you like to see that hasn’t happened yet?

Elisabeth: I see Invicta continuing to thrive and growing the different women’s weight classes. Shannon and Dana have a wonderful mutual respect and I could see the UFC bringing them in, in the future similar to the WEC with the lighter weight classes. The UFC on FOX Sports 1 is basically the UFC network now, and women are getting a lot of love on TUF with this season being coached by Ronda and Meisha. I can’t tell you how many people we talk to who are not even interested in the men’s fights! Who would have said that 5 years ago? Female fighters Jake and I love to watch, obviously Ronda and Meisha. We also never miss Cyborg fight—she is really impressive and was a sweetheart of a person when we met her. Michelle Waterson, Liz Carmouche, Tara Larosa, Barb Honchak, Ashley Cummins, Thug Rose, Claudia Gadelha is a KILLER—look her up! Who else… there is really never a dull fight with the women. They are all so impressive and since they all train with men, when they fight, its like they are super charged! Men—Jake loves to watch BJ Penn! He has a BJJ and Jeet Kune Do background, so the fact that BJ will fight at any weight is super impressive. We also love to watch Anderson, Jon Jones, Chael, Wanderlei, and my personal favorite who got me into the sport was Diego Sanchez. We also have friends that we always root for like Tom Lawler—he is such a great guy! As far as dream matchups…I would have loved to have seen Anderson vs Jones if Anderson didn’t lose. Maybe Jones vs Daniel Cormier. And for SURE Ronda vs Cyborg! What a match that would be!!

With the Ultimate Fighter 18 breaking new ground, featuring both men and women, are you watching the new season and do you have any early favorites to win it all in the end? What are your thoughts on the Ronda Rousey Vs Miesha Tate rematch scheduled for December 28th at UFC 168? Predictions?

Elisabeth: Hell yes we are watching! We get chills every episode! We have been waiting forever for this! We are two shows in now and I was shocked last night when Shayna Baszler lost! She is a bad ass and WILL be in the UFC. I thought she was gonna take the show. She has so much heart and skill—it will be shown soon in the UFC! We are both huge Tara Larosa fans—I was sad she lost. Its really up for grabs right now. As far as the rematch—I think it will be a longer fight for sure. Ronda will be taken out of the first round. They are both amazing fighters with a ton of skill and heart. I wonder if Ronda might be taking on too much with the movies and such leading up to the fight—but she has a ton of focus. Honestly I will be ok with whoever winning, but I want a Forest vs Bonner fight that puts women’s MMA on the map. I want people to be talking about that fight DURING the main event!

Last question… You’ve been very big on social media and marketing. How do you think that has helped your brand grow and any special words to fans of both you and your brand?

Elisabeth: Social media has been a key for us. Like I said, we didn’t start Fight Chix with this grand business plan. We had an idea and it grew. Social media has allowed us to connect with each and every person who like our idea and they have also helped shape it. We ASK what people like or want to see and we do our best to create that. We feel so lucky for the journey we are on and the friends we have made. We met Miss Rara through Myspace! She is one of my dearest and closest friends. We met Ottavia Bourdain via Twitter, she trains at Renzo Gracie’s school in New York and now we are friends and had dinner with her and Anthony in Vegas during a Fan Expo. Social Media has made the world smaller for us and let us connect with wonderful people who share our passion—I am very thankful for it and for the experiences it has led to. For our fans… honestly I don’t like calling them fans. That word makes it seem like we look down on them and they look up at us. We are ALL fans of MMA and all want to grow, empower and reach our potential. Everyone who wears Fight Chix is a part of that mission. So to our supporters I say thank you… please stay in touch with us and message me @fightchix and Jake @FightChixJake and sign up for our e-mails and receive 20% off your first order!

BONUS: If you visit FightChix.com and use the special code ARTOFMMA you can save 25%!!!

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