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FXF Q&A: Catching Up with Zeus from MiddleEasy

Keeping fight fans in check with a daily dose of all things MMA, MiddleEasy.com has transitioned into one of the most informative and wildly entertaining online destinations for Mixed Martial Arts enthusiasts. In addition to launching the MiddleEasy Network earlier this year, the crew also entered into the MMA apparel scene in 2010 with a collection of cleverly crafted MMA inspired tees and hoodies sold at WorldOverEasy.com. In an effort to give you the inside scoop on what’s up in the world of MiddleEasy, we caught up with Zeus, the main man behind the master plan, to get his thoughts on the MMA apparel scene and a whole lot more.

What’s the scoop on World Over Easy and how did it come about?

Initially, WorldOverEasy was slated to be a unique sock company, something in the line of the Swedish underwear company Bjorn Bjorg. I designed the site for the company and sketched out the designs of four unique socks (which now reside somewhere in my friend Karishma’s closet, hopefully). I wish I could share some of the concepts with you, but one day I still want to pursue this dream. One thing I can tell you is that the designs would revolutionize the sock industry. I’m 100% sure of it. The way I wanted to market the socks was to get prominent figures of the 1980s to pose in the nude while only wearing the socks. I would then find a clever way to cover up their ‘privates’ with a sock. I’m sure you can use your imagination.

One person that I remember I contacting  to be involved in the marketing campaign was the actress who played ‘The Childlike Empress’ in The NeverEnding Story, Tami Stronach. She’s held it together over the years, just Google her. I contacted a few Chinese manufacturers, but it was hard to convey what I wanted to do with a sock over the phone without using some elaborate hand gestures and facial expressions. Needless to say, our phone conversations and email correspondence went nowhere.  The project died in 2008, but I think I still have the website around here somewhere.

WorldOverEasy.com was resurrected in 2010 when the demand for the Green MiddleEasy shirts far surpassed what I could provide on MiddleEasy.com. I hired the guy who makes Natural Born Comics to come up with a really cool background for the site. He primarily speaks Japanese, so I showed him an old picture from the instructional manual of Mega Man 2 and I told him that THIS is what I wanted, but just MMA fighters. He drafted a concept and it was perfect. The guy whipped up the entire background in just a few hours. He’s an amazing artist that guy.

WorldOverEasy is a very nonthreatening site and it’s there for people to see that all MMA clothing isn’t just skulls flying with angel wings and pitbulls floating in the air, shooting machine guns in a gothic cathedral. I would say the most popular shirt (besides the Green MiddleEasy shirt) would have to be the ‘Free Lee Murray’ shirt, especially internationally.

The green MiddleEasy tee is popping up all over the place it seems. Where’s the craziest place you’ve seen it surface?

I love that shirt. A guy named Evan C took a picture of the shirt in front of one of Michelangelo’s  statue in The Louvre in Paris, France. It looks like the statue of Nike, but I’m prepared to be entirely wrong in my assumption.

It was cool to see the MiddleEasy shirt in EA Sports MMA. To see something you’ve created appear in a digital universe is beyond surreal on a level that only Jean Baurdrillard can fully understand. The shirt exists in a simulacrum, and that’s awesome.

Back in August, Sean O’Connell, a member of TUF 8 wore the Green MiddleEasy shirt and it appeared in an episode of Dana White’s vlog leading up to UFC Live: Jones vs. Matyushenko. A very epic moment in Green MiddleEasy shirt history.

One of our readers, MattK somehow made it on SkySports at a soccer game while rocking the MiddleEasy shirt, another unbelievable moment in MiddleEasy history. The fans are just extraordinary. The love is all encompassing.

By the way, why bright green? Any other colors in the works?

I’ve had this theory that within nature, green is the most docile and welcoming color that appears on our planet. Oxygen-producing green algae, nearly every plant in nature has a green tone or originates from green and slowly transforms into another color (the stem of a tulip, for example). Green is what connects our earth to every life-form imaginable. If anything, it’s a life sustaining tone and that’s why I chose to use that as our primary color for the shirt. If you think about it, that same comforting feeling that green gave our primordial ancestors is replicated in our society through the use of the US dollar being green, automotive vehicles being signaled to ‘Go’ with a green light, companies rising in the stock market are often designated with a green arrow — the examples are endless.

No other colors are planned for our official shirt other than green. We may run different MiddleEasy shirts, but nothing will be like The Green MiddleEasy shirt.

Who’s the creative genius behind the World Over Easy T-shirts?

I’m a humble guy, but the site was entirely my creation. Jason Nawara designed the Chicago MiddleEasy Skyline shirt which has been selling really well. Just today I shipped one out to someone in Sweden. Our Icelandic hoodie was translated by a MiddleEasy reader that lives in Iceland, those things have been selling higher than expected. I had no idea people would rock a hoodie entirely written in another language. Nuts.

What’s your opinion on the current state of the MMA apparel industry?

It’s definitely getting better. Around 2007, MMA clothing was synonymous with whatever artwork you would see on the front of a Gwar album cover. I guess we can all attribute that to the dominating grasp Affliction had over the MMA market from 2005-2008. This was a pivotal time for the development of MMA, and a lot of entrepreneurs who just entered the MMA world at that time saw the prominence of Affliction and their successful designs, and then we all saw an army of clones from budding MMA apparel companies. It became standardized practice to acid wash a shirt, cover it with grunge and throw a few tribal patterns on it and deem the entire concoction MMA.

Slowly, companies like RVCA started to gain ground in the MMA apparel world (specifically through their sponsorship of BJ Penn) and made it clear that apparel doesn’t need to be drowned in gothic undertones to be considered ‘MMA’. Companies like Jaco Clothing followed in 2009, and I believe that’s when MMA apparel began to crawl out of the dark ages and into an era of creativity and innovation. It’s a good place for MMA fashion right now. Enjoy it, folks.

Are there any MMA clothing brands that you’re particularly fond of?

Jaco Clothing has always been good to us. Both of our companies began roughly at the same time (actually within a week apart, I believe) and they were one of the first companies to take a chance sponsoring MiddleEasy and helping us with our nutty contests ideas. One of our first large contests with Jaco Clothing, we invited our readers to buy into the following scenario (which was conceived by our interviewer, Noel Torralba, after he woke up on someone’s sofa in Manhattan – even though he lives in New Jersey):

“You have a canister of mutagen. Choose 4 fighters and 4 animals to mutate into the ultimate team of thugs to combat the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Name the experiment and assign a turtle to combat each of the newly created mutants.”

The contest garnered hundreds of responses and yielded some pretty wild responses. The winners of the contest were announced here, and it’s equally as wild.

A few months after that contest took place, we put the offer out that if anyone would get a permanent Jaco tattoo, we would award them $400 in Jaco Clothing gear. The response was so large that we had to stop the contest early because too many people were permanently scarring their body for free gear. A few people tried to cheat their way into a prize package, but most people took video and pictures of them actually getting the tattoo in order to prove how hardcore they really are.

Unfortunately, Jaco Clothing had some internal restructuring, some things happened that I won’t disclose here, but needless to say we had to move on from Jaco Clothing. Still, they were with us from the beginning so we will always have love for them.

We started to work with VXRSI in the Fall of 2010 and kicked off our partnership with a massive t-shirt design contest. Essentially, we offered our readers a chance to crack open their pirated copy of Adobe Photoshop and design a shirt that combined the VXRSI and MiddleEasy logo into one beautifully constructed  piece of apparel. The responses we received on the internet were jaw-droppingly impressive.

It’s amazing how talented our readers truly are, most of these guys should be picked up as designers for clothing companies because it took us three weeks to decide on a winner. They quality of the entries were just amazing, we finally decided on a shirt we called ‘Defend Yourself Intelligently’.

They were limited-edition and VXRSI has now ceased production on the shirt, but I managed to get one before the production wrapped up and it’s hanging in my closet – next to my Team Cro Cop shirt.

VXRSI and MiddleEasy teamed up once again for Dynamite!! 2010 to sponsor Jason High in his fight with Mach Sakurai. He grabbed the unanimous decision win, and we grabbed a few pictures from some photographers that were located in the Saitama Super Arena in Japan at the time.

Once Jason High arrived from Japan to the US, we even snagged this picture of him rocking our limited-edition VXRSI and MiddleEasy shirt. I think you’re probably one of the first sites to see this one, actually:

There are a lot of good companies out there like FORM Athletics, but there are a lot of other apparel companies that I wish would make the transition into the MMA market, notably Upper Playground, Black Scale and Tank Theory.

You’re clearly a fan of the Wu-Tang Clan. Who would win in a cage fight between GZA and RZA?

Yep, I even have a Wu-Tang ‘W’ tattooed on the back of my leg. Lyrically, I think Ghostface Killah is probably the sharpest guy in Wu. If you want to hear lyrical supremacy, download GhostFace Killah ‘Nutmeg’. It’s one of the most underrated pieces of hip-hop out there.

As far as a fight between GZA and RZA, the last time I saw RZA, he was eating a bowl of green beans in an airport. I would think that he has a healthier diet than GZA, so cardio wise I’m going with RZA. I know that he was more of an active martial-arts practitioner than GZA, however I do know that The Genius is nasty with a pair of nunchucks so as long as it’s unarmed combat, RZA takes this easy. I’m thinking second round TKO – it may dip into the third depending on if GZA gets him down to the ground.

What can we expect to see next from both MiddleEasy and World Over Easy?

Damn, so much in 2011. We have to keep stuff under wraps to prevent other sites from biting our style. It sounds pretentious, but I don’t know of a single company out there that discloses what they’re doing before it’s actually completed. What if Apple told everyone they were developing the iPod before it actually launched?

We have tons of things planned for this year, and whatever you think that we’re thinking, it’s not that. It’s already turning out to be a monumental year for the world of MMA, and we’re just riding the wave while putting out an array of dopeness for everyone to hopefully pick-up on.

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