TSC Interviews: Affliction Clothing Owner Tom Atencio
Affliction Clothing is one of the premiere clothing lines in all of fashion today, let alone mixed martial arts.
As one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's main sponsors, Affliction endorses many of the promotion's top fighters including UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture and UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Founded in 2005, Affliction has grown rapidly, much like the UFC since then. Co-owner Tom Atencio has been one of the driving forces behind the brand's dominance, allowing him to display his love for fashion, ink, and MMA all in one venue. But make no mistake about it--Atencio's success didn't come overnight.
Atencio spoke to The Sports Courier in February about how Affliction Clothing came about, Affliction MMA's demise, dealings with M-1 Global, reconciling with Dana White, and the sacrifices made to become successful.
- 2-0 Professional MMA record
- Co-owner of Affliction Clothing
- Does not look 44-years-old
We all know how TapOuT got their start in the clothing and MMA business. How did Affliction Clothing come about?
My business partners and I worked together prior to starting Affliction. My partners Todd Beard and Eric Foss did a lot of work for major brands like Hurley, Quiksilver, etc. They just kind of got sick of the major brands using their designs and reaping all the rewards. And with that, Affliction Clothing was born. They brought me on soon after.
I worked with them before with my own design firm and had my own silk string company. They brought me on board and used my affiliation with fighters. We worked with a lot of musicians like Ozzy Osbourne, Korn, and Buckcherry. We really had a lot of artists and other celebrities wearing our stuff. I brought a fight element to the brand and started sponsoring friends that were fighters.
My late best friend Justin Levins was the first fighter we ever sponsored. It kind of just snowballed from there. From then on, I met Rampage Jackson and Randy Couture. It just kept growing and eventually grew to the lifestyle brand for MMA.
What was your previous background in martial arts?
I trained real traditional karate as a kid. Nothing real formal. I was taught by a friend who was a black belt. I kind of always grew up fighting. I come from a big family. Other than that, it wasn't until I met Joe Moreira in the '80s. He moved to California from Brazil. I trained in his garage. I helped him start the United States Foundation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I used to help him put events together.
Joe ended up introducing me to Marco Ruas and that's where my love for MMA really took off. Marco taught me stand-up. I ended up fighting at a few events because of him. Ever since then, I really have a love for MMA and this industry.
So training and competing in MMA helps you relate to fighters better?
Yes, absolutely. I think it definitely gives me an edge over other sponsors in the industry to be able to relate to fighters. It helps knowing about all the hard work they put in and experiencing it first-hand, as well as fighting to keep putting food on the table. It's a job most people don't understand.
It helps relating to fighters knowing if you get injured before a fight or your opponent pulls out, you might not get paid. MMA is a tough sport. It's not easy on the mind or the body.