No other clothing company out there today represents combat culture quite like Ranger Up. Boasting one of the best looking assortments of graphic tees in the business, Ranger Up makes military-inspired gear for the troops, MMA fighters, fight fans, and of course, the men and women of the world who support the Armed Forces. We catch up with Tom Amenta, one part of the Ranger Up crew, for the inside scoop on the world’s most militant Mixed Martial Arts clothing company.
Tell us a bit about Ranger Up, your team and your plans to conquer the world.
Starting off we have El Presidente and the founder of the company, Nick Palmisciano. He is a West Point graduate and served as a US Army Infantry Captain, his last billet being the Operations Officer for the US Army’s elite Ranger School. He started this thing off as a hobby when he was volunteering to teach ROTC kids military MMA and small unit tactics and we’ve just exploded. The company was founded in September 2006 out of an apartment and has grown to the point where we just moved to our second warehouse (complete with an MMA style gym in the back). The design on that is all Nick, except for the Thai heavy bag instead of a boxing heavy bag, which was my call.
As for me, I’m Tom Amenta, I am the Operations guy. I was introduced to Nick through a mutual friend when the company needed writers for the stories we post on our content site RhinoDen.com. I won the first contest while I was a senior at the University of Illinois, after serving 5 years on active duty as a member of the US Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. As Nick and I got to know each other he invited me out to a fight show, tossed me a cell phone and told me I was going to do sales for the company. I was either doing ok at it or he was really desperate because he called me one day and asked if I could move to North Carolina. I asked how much time I had. He told me four days. I told him four days wasn’t a lot of time to decide if I was going to leave the Midwest, move half way across the country and accept the job. Ever the confident dude, he told me he meant four days to move here. I took the job, moved to Operations, and I haven’t looked back since.
Next is our chief marketing mad genius and Design Director, Garrett Schemmel. G$, as we call him, has been with the company since it started. If you love the designs, notice our ads on line or in Fight! Magazine, you’re seen Garrett’s handiwork. Son of an Army Sniper, awesome dude, and a two time graduate from Georgia Tech. He brings a sense of calm professionalism to the company as the rest of us are basically testosterone-filled orangutans.
Our most famous team member is Tim Kennedy, who is an Army Special Forces sniper and Strikeforce 185lb fighter. Tim met Nick when Ranger Up did a photo shoot to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project in early 2007. They hit it off immediately, probably because they’re both sarcastic jack asses. Joking aside, Tim is a very astute businessman and we all share the same values, so after Tim worked with Ranger Up a few times he was invited to become a partner. He now works closely with Garrett on design and focuses our MMA strategy. Tim is also basically the most dangerous man in the world, so we have that going for us, which is nice.
We also have regular Fight! Magazine contributor, author, and Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, Kelly Crigger helping us out. Crigger doesn’t work for the company, but he believes in what we are doing and has been a phenomenal mentor. We’re hoping to rope him in fulltime when he retires, and since he is 107 years old, he should be due any day now.
Finally, although he doesn’t work for us, Lex McMahon, son of the late Ed McMahon, writes for us and does tons of projects with us to support the troops. He basically gets us in trouble all the time and keeps life interesting.
How did you get involved in the MMA apparel scene and what’s your connection to the sport?
Everyone in the company is athletically inclined and are all huge fans of the sport. Nick was nationally ranked in Judo, was a successful amateur boxer, and wrestled in high school and college. I wrestled in high school as well and did Muay Thai all through college. Both Nick and I competed regularly in “Military MMA” while we served. Crigger is one of the bigger authors in MMA. Tim is a top 185 pounder in the world. We definitely have an interest in the sport.
More than that though, and more importantly, we believe MMA saves lives on the battlefield. The fight nowadays in Iraq and Afghanistan is door to door. It’s very up close and personal and sometimes you can’t get the standoff to use your weapon. We wanted to play a bigger part in making MMA a day-to-day part of military life. When Nick met Tim, without sounding cheesy, he just believed in him, so we made a Tim Kennedy t-shirt. It was our first MMA shirt ever. So as the military side of the business started to take off, MMA was such a natural progression for us, and we had a stellar guy we wanted to support. It all just fit together, you know?
There just isn’t another sport more in line with the warrior ethos or that embodies the spirit of all of the people who work here more than MMA. It’s so very similar to what we did in the military. We all train – as I mentioned earlier we have an MMA style gym in our warehouse. So it’s not just a hobby to us or a business or some corporate diversification project like some other companies out there, it’s our passion. We live it, believe in it, and think we can save troops lives by helping to grow MMA in the military community.
Ranger Up has created some amazing T-shirt designs. Where does the inspiration come from?
The company is made up of Army Rangers, Special Forces, and Army Infantry guys (with some Marine help from Lex) so we get a lot of our inspiration from warriors or battles of the past. The Roman Legion, the Spartans, and Sun Tzu have all inspired shirts from us. We have a wall of ideas, ranging from Crazy Horse and the Sioux to British Knights to the Gurkhas (trust us, you want to Wikipedia those bad boys if you don’t know who they are). No matter what though, every shirt has meaning. They aren’t just patterns meant to attract jaeger-bomb-chugging frat boys with frosted tips. We put a lot of time into making sure the details are there, so if you are a student of history you enjoy the shirt even more, and if not, well they still just look cool. Overall though, we are big on the Warrior Spirit and Ethos. We want the military to be proud of what we put out.
Which MMA athletes do you currently sponsor and why?
This is going to sound simplistic and maybe harsh, but we sponsor only great guys who have served in the military, police or fire, or are truly patriotic and pro-military. We will not sponsor douchebags, even if they are popular douchebags. We’re not out trying to prove we’re the most extreme or the toughest or anything. We sponsor people who represent a love of country and a respect for the Armed Forces.
On our roster of athletes first and foremost is our friend, and partner, Tim Kennedy. He fights at 185lbs in Strikeforce. He stands for everything that is right about the American Military Man. When he wins, we all win. We are all looking forward to and hoping Tim gets a shot at the belt soon, he’s an absolute beast.
In the UFC, we sponsor Jorge Rivera, who served in the cavalry, Tim Credeur, a former Navy officer, and Brian Stann, a Marine and Silver Star recipient. All three of these guys are amazing human beings that deserve all the success in the world. Tim and Jorge, in addition to being kick ass fighters, helped us out this October with the Train the Troops Event we did for Marines in Southern California and Yuma, Arizona. Brian wanted to, but let a little thing like a new baby get in the way…we’re sure his wife would have understood!
We also sponsor about thirty up and coming fighters like Dale Hartt (UFC/WEC), Damien Stelly (Bellator), Andrew Chappelle, Kris McCray, Jon Walsh, Todd Vance and a host of other guys you’re going to know very soon.
What can we expect to see next from Ranger Up?
This is going to be a huge year for us. Things have started to tip. For years we were hounding people to give us a shot, and now we are really starting to get a lot of calls – people want to do hats for us, energy drinks, fight shorts, etc. We’re even talking about doing a beer! We’re excited, but we’re taking it slow and doing it right.
The coolest thing to happen recently is that we just got word that we will have 20 or so of our t-shirts featured in the forthcoming EA Sports MMA video game, in addition to being all over Tim Kennedy’s walk out gear. The guys and gals at EA have been awesome and we’re super psyched about it!
We’re also going to continue to do our Train the Troops events. We believe they make a huge difference and the athletes love giving back to the military community. We just got an inquiry from the British Government and we are planning a trip to Afghanistan to bring fighters to some of the remote bases.
Also, one of our good friends, a fighter we sponsor, just got told that he’s going to be on TUF. Since he and his team haven’t officially released it yet I won’t blow him up but we’re really proud of him and super psyched at the opportunity he has. He’s going to kick some major ass on that show.
We’re also partnering with Zac Robinson on a book where the proceeds will go to various military charities. You’d be amazed at the roster of fighters that have volunteered to be involved. You should be seeing that on shelves in April. We’ll keep you posted.
And of course, we are going to, you know…make some shirts and whatnot.
Any final words of wisdom?
I hate to give Nick any credit, because his enormous Italian head really doesn’t need to get any bigger, but the other day he bastardized Robert Frost and now we’re getting that shit put on a sign for the office, because it really is reflective of our personalities, our business, and what we’re trying to accomplish. So here goes:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I burned down the forest and created my own path, thus pissing everyone off, and that has made all the difference…” – Nick Palmisciano
Yeah, that about sums us up.