If you have any contact with local MMA or BJJ, you are probably already at least somewhat familiar with KO Sports Gear (www.kosportsgear.com) and owner Jeff Swanson.
I’ve seen KO Sports Gear being worn in competitions and around events from gyms like The Cellar, Spartan, The Academy, MTT, McCune’s Martial Arts, MCFM, Warrior’s Cove and several others. If you have been to a local comp lately, you have probably seen Jeff tabling there.
Or giving away a lot of cool stuff.
I met Jeff about a year ago and did a write up for one of his rash guards, one that I still wear today. Jeff has been cool enough to sponsor our submission only tournaments and I’ve seen his table set up at NAGA, Grappling Games and local MMA events.
That being said, actually getting sponsored by KO Sports Gear isn’t easy.
This isn’t Jeff’s only job, so you can only imagine what kind of dedication it takes for a person to deal with not only distributors but gyms and grapplers/fighters for the fun of it, especially when it comes to the already saturated BJJ/MMA clothing and gear market.
Here’s the thing: Jeff actually sells and sells out of camouflage gis.
If that sentence didn’t blow your mind, then you don’t really understand this game. Traditional gi colors of white, blue and black have dominated the scene and I’ve only seen a handful of ads at most that ever feature camo gis. Most of them are targeted at armed forces combative training.
Jeff can’t keep them in stock.
I talked with a grappler friend about his, speculative about the gi as I love my traditional colors. His review was nothing short of resounding. He kept pointing out not only the durability but also the comfort.
I have to agree, as an owner of supposed “light” and “feather” gis, they feel like heavy down-filled jackets compared to Jeff’s camo gi.
But I digress. I’m here to talk about the company and the sponsorship.
Jeff already pounds the pavement, making his presence known at any gym that will let him in the door. More often than not, they will end up carrying gear for MMA, BJJ, boxing or all of the above. Frankly, I think it’s pretty sweet to have a local company that actually wants feedback on how to make their products better and up to the specs of the actual users.
Of course, when someone works that hard on their own, actual sponsorship is hard. Jeff briefly spent time sponsoring local fighters, but the returns just weren’t matching the output.
Let me say this for the hundredth time: if you don’t make them money, what good are you as a sponsored fighter?
Giving a shout out on Facebook or Twitter is all well and good, but I’m talking about putting up links, going on forums, actually talking about how much you like the gear to friends and training partners.
Now, Jeff already does part of that making some of the most affordable gear out there. In fact, when people new to BJJ ask me what gear to buy, I always say KO Sports Gear. Affordable and durable are all that newbies should be concerned about.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been classified as a newbie, and I still appreciate those qualities in my gear. I’m not the sucker…I mean sort of guy that will spend $200 on a gi when I know I could get two or three for that same price.
Odds are, the next time you are at a local MMA or BJJ event, Jeff will be there to with everything from boxing/MMA gloves to shin pads to focus mitts to gis to rashguards and everything in between. Stop by and say hi, check out his gear, do a double take at his prices.
Appreciate the local guy that is really out there just because he loves to do it and maybe, if you have any sense, you will realize how fortunate Minnesota is to have someone like Jeff in your gym’s corner.
And on a personal note: I can't f***ing wait until the "smiley face" gi comes out. You have no idea how hard it is to...well, you'll just have to wait and see...