MMA is a booming sport, and whether you are a fan or not, you can not deny it has begun slowly creeping its way into mainstream society. Round 5 MMA is a reasonably new company but has thrived in its niche market, grabbing the rights to make "super-deformed" figurines (as many Japanese toy collectors might label them) of many UFC and Strikeforce athletes, including Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Frank Mir, Gina Carano and many more.
Damon Lau, president and co-founder of the Canadian-based toy company, gave us a few minutes of his time to tell us about the industry, what's next for the figures and some advice for future toymakers!
Tomopop: So Damon, tell us briefly what got the company started?
Damon: Round 5 for me just happened on a whim. Through my previous career, I had the opportunity to become friends with many MMA fighters, and one of them was one of my closest and personal friends, Randy Couture (former UFC champion). This was back in the summer or spring of 2007. Randy had just flown out to Toronto and we were talking about how the sport had blown up in the past two years and discussing business ideas.
We thought that every single fan could only show they were a fan of a fighter if they had a hat or shirt, so we were tossing around ideas and one that come up was if someone would do collectible figures. We both paused on it and said it was a good idea, and literally, that's how the idea was born!
I took that conversation to heart and we soon became the first company to do MMA figures. Tomopop:
What was your favorite toy growing up?
Damon: This sounds totally weird, but I had this odd obsession with this figure. I used to watch He-Man and Transformers alot, and I was really big into the DinoBots. But I remember from He-Man, there was this green moss guy, I can't remember his name. I was really obsessed with that figure! I also had those huge really non-flexible pro wrestling figures, the really huge ones that had no articulation and were 10 inches big! They were just those big heavy figures! I had tons of those things.
Tomopop: That He-Man figure was Mossman, they just put him out again recently!
Damon: He was one of my favorites! I did not know they put him out again, I am going to have go out and buy that! That's awesome!
Tomopop: What was the one toy you always wanted as a kid but never had?
Damon: The one toy that I always wanted but never had, but actually got it three years ago, was a Gremlins Mogwai figure. I always wanted one since I was a massive Gremlins fan, and one time I walked through a store and found the Neca version. I bought it on the spot and I have it sitting in my collectors case in my living room!
Tomopop: Are there any other figures you collect right now?
Damon: You know, I am a pretty avid collector of a lot of designer toys, like the Kid Robot stuff or anything that has an artistic elementto it. I see a lot of rare collector toys in Asia so I started collecting a lot of those things. One of my close friends, his name is Pat B., he works for Dreamwave and used to do Transformer comic books. He always points me in the right direction for buying stuff.
Tomopop: How involved are you in the actual production of the figures?
Damon: I am very involved! The company has grown so much in the past few years! We have around 15-20 people in our Toronto office and we have a new office in Hong Kong too. When it comes to picking the fighters for the assortments and sculpting direction, I am very much involved in the production.
Tomopop: So Damon, tell us about wave 3 of the UFC collector series.
Damon: Wave 2 just started hitting the market not too long ago, and Wave 3 is hitting soon. Wave 3 is a pretty great series. It has Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva, Diego Sanchez, Rich Franklin and Nogueira and one thing that we are doing for the very first time is were doing a Pride version of Wanderlei Silva so that is really cool!Tomopop:
What you are working on for the future?
Damon: We are looking to move up into a larger scale. It will be a higher price point but it will have a whole new level of detail. The way we do our line is to adjust to collectors at different levels. Our focus has always been towards hardcore collctors, so when you start with a six-inch collector line its something that is small for a table-top or desk and things like that. The next line that is coming out is a larger scale so every new thing you see will be a step up in scale.
Tomopop: Can you give us any hints for who we will see in Wave 4 of the UFC collectors line?
Damon: All I can say is that series 4 is probably the best of the entire line and there will be seven figures as well as multiple chase figures, and it will be out just in time for Christmas!
Tomopop: Do you have any advice for collectors or fans who want to start their own toy business?
Damon: I would say that getting into this business, if your purpose is just a business aspiration, I do not think that is the right way to go. I think alot of times, in business and in life, anything you really want to go forward with you have to be passionate. If finances are more important, than it is something you are not passionate about. So if you want to go out and start a toy company, my biggest advice is where ever you do start, there are so many things you will learn and you need to keep an open attitude. But no matter what you are doing, it has to be something that, whether you make money or not, has to be something you really, really love and are passionate about. That is the right attitude to have and if it was meant to be, you will turn into a big toy company and if not, you end up doing something you really love and are passionate about!
For more info on Round 5 MMA product, head to their website, Round 5 MMA!
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