Behind the Scenes with Rick Brewer of House of Pain (Clothing Company)

When I attended the MMA Big Show, I got a chance to speak with the reps from the House of Pain company. I got in touch with their President, Rick Brewer, and he agreed not only to this interview, but to sponsor one of our giveaways on FightTicker.com. If you're interested in getting entered in the giveaway, just go to FightTicker and sign up for a membership (it's free) and then follow the instructions on the main page for the giveaway.

House of Pain doesn't just sponsor MMA fighters, but other athletes as well.

Check after the jump for everything Rick had to say. You can find House of Pain online here, or you can get there by clicking the House of Pain banner that is currently at the top of the main page.

PV: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Rick Brewer: I’m just a regular gym-rat, with a history of Powerlifting and boxing. I’m basically the weakest powerlifter ever, but I have a decent bench - and I never quit competing. Best recent competition bench-press of 468# at bodyweight of 214#. Is started selling HOUSE OF PAIN gear at Powerlifting meets, and began shipping worldwide in 1996.

PV: You sponsor a number of athletes in other sports as well, i.e. bodybuilding – how do you feel this multi-sport approach sets you apart from other similar clothing companies?

RB: A lot of my friends are fighters, so HOUSE OF PAIN got into the MMA Fight world back in the late 90’s. There is a lot more crossover between these groups (weightlifters and fighters) than most people realize. We even did a study a few years back on what was more important in the cage; explosive speed, or absolute strength. I can’t use the word ‘power’ because most people don’t understand true meaning - but we basically examined the value of weight-lifting for fighters. As expected, there were heated disagreements over the results!

We sponsor extreme athletes in a variety of disciplines; including Strongest Man Competitors (everyone loves to see a telephone pole thrown for distance), MMA Fighters (breakin hearts and teeth), Powerlifting(stronger is better), and Bodybuilding (size matters). When the Last Man Standing was filmed all over the world; the biggest fighter wore HOUSE OF PAIN at his own expense. When Never Back Down was filmed; several of the MMA fighters (and one bouncer) wore HOUSE OF PAIN gear. Our gear is on Powerlifting platforms all over the world, and anytime big rocks are lifted by men wearing kilts - HOP is there! HOUSE OF PAIN is on MTV and cable-TV fights every day of the week. We are pleased to clothe fanatics in a wide variety of pursuits, and happy to ignore the normal population.

PV: Who was the first athlete you ever sponsored?

RB: First sponsored athlete; Skip LaCour (former natural bodybuilder). First celebrity contact; James Caan (led to my 15 seconds of fame).
(PV's note - I asked Rick to expand on the James Caan contact - here's what he had to say.)
I met James Caan in the Venice Gold’s Gym, about the fall of 1999. I was sort of stuck between OR & CA Powerlifting meets, with a HOUSE OF PAIN truck & trailer. I had one more HOUSE OF PAIN P/L meet to do, before I could return to TX. I met James Caan the first day I worked out at Gold’s Gym, and we casually talked between sets. I told him I was a fan. On day 2, I gave him some HOP clothes. I worked out every day that week at Venice Gold’s, and talked to him every day - it was just a random coincidence that we were there at same time day after day (I had extra time to kill).

That Thursday afternoon, after 4 days of these gym-meetings, I went to a business lunch with a famous bodybuilder. We went to a famous Venice dive called The Firehouse (I still love it). He suddenly looked over my shoulder and whispered “there’s James Caan!” I turned around in time to see James and several big guys walk in; they came over to our table - and James said ‘Hey Rick, how’s it going?’ with his hand on my shoulder. I remained cool and casual, but inside I glowed like radioactive waste! The bodybuilder was incredulous, and I laughed and laughed as I drove away later! Of course, I realize that James Caan forgot my name before I got back to TX - but I was famous for a few seconds! LOL.

PV: Can you tell us about a typical sponsorship deal H.O.P. would have with an mma fighter?

RB: We sponsor fighters on a per-fight basis, rather than year-round. We go to as many cage fights as possible, and try to sponsor at least 2 fighters everywhere we go. Fighters send us info on their fight (date/location), and the fight promoter (with contact info). If we can arrange an HOP booth; we sponsor them. For this reason, we have sponsored almost 150 MMA fighters so far. Some of these fighters have been sponsored 4 or 5 times by HOP. We’ve sponsored a similar number of weightlifters and porn stars. (Just Kidding)

We take a grass-roots approach, with an emphasis on being present to see the fights in person. We attend well over 200 events per year in the US, with roughly half being MMA fights or grappling tournaments (the other half are weightlifting-related contests). We go to fights and shows all over the USA, and we are currently looking for HOP event-reps to go to events in NY/NJ, PA, IL, MO, MA, GA, MI, MN, and SC/NC. (These HOP-reps would stock & sell gear, as HOP Distributors.)

On MMA fights; we require a HOUSE OF PAIN booth before we offer anything. Then our sponsorship level depends on TV coverage and other factors concerning exposure value. A typical amateur deal might be free HOP gear; possibly with a small $$ win-bonus. A typical pro-fighter deal might be extensive free apparel for fighter and friends; plus base $$ and a $$ win-fee. If the bout will only get TV coverage of highlights, then the fighter might also get a $$ bonus for any HOP logo appearance on network TV.

There are thousands of MMA fighters that think they are the next big thing, based on winning a few amateur fights. These guys think they have hit the jack-pot, and get a sponsorship manager to help them start raking in the cash. It is much easier for us to deal with a professional manager, because IF THEY HAVE SEVERAL FIGHTERS, they will be more realistic about the value of each fighter. Obviously, there is a wide variety of fighter values. Unfortunately, fighters are generally worth much less to an apparel company (like HOP) than they think. Sad, but true.

PV: What kinds of challenge do you face running a company like H.O.P.?

RB: Working here at HOP is like trying to work a huge puzzle, with 1000 complicated pieces, while people hit you. That’s what I like best. Our HOP customers are the most interesting people in the world. The thing I like least about working here at HOUSE OF PAIN is when I have to talk on the phone! I much prefer email, so that I have a written record of lies that people tell me. If someone calls HOP and tells an employee that “Rick asked them to call and speak with him;” my guys know to hang up on the obvious liar!

If you're a fighter, Email me with info on your MMA fight: Rick@houseofpain.com

Thanks for your willingness to talk to me, Rick – and thanks for agreeing to sponsor a giveaway on FightTicker. I'm looking forward to see what House of Pain has to offer in the future.


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