Remember when the guy who wore a TapouT or Affliction shirt to a party was the guy you didn’t want to mess with? Yeah, neither do I.

That’s how long it’s been since wearing MMA-themed shirts has been “cool” and hip. Brands like TapouT and Affliction were once at the forefront of the MMA t-shirt industry but have since become the standard. Part of what has brought TapouT’s image down has been the mass quantity of shirts produced by the company.

The clothing apparel was once an underground fad, but has gone mainstream in a big way. The TapouT MPS line can be found at any major clothing store, such as JC Penney. Like any underground fad, the “cool” factor went straight out the window as more and more people began to wear the brand.

Affliction is an entirely different case, but suffers the same problem from making so many shirts. For one, the shirts are incredibly expensive, even for the ones without the foil designs. I’m sorry, but the average consumer isn’t going to be able to afford a wardrobe full of shirts that cost well over $50 a piece.

The other issue with Affliction is one that’s shared by TapouT and many other big brands—design. MMA-themed shirts tend to be full of skulls, dragons, chains and anything else that’s considered “manly.” The overkill of foil designs is enough to make innocent bystanders go blind.

But Affliction and TapouT are just some of the brands that have suffered from the stigma surrounding MMA shirts. It’s a problem that’s been affecting the companies for years since the sport has exploded in popularity. There’s just a belief surrounding people wearing MMA-themed shirts that says any of the following: “I’m a tool, I like to fight, I want to fight you right now,” along with many other negative lines that I’m sure we’ve all said before.

Well, that was until recently.

A few weeks ago I actually spoke to the President of the Fear the Fighter clothing brand, David Makdessi, and he brought up the same issue.

“I didn’t want people to be afraid of the people who wear our shirts,” Makdessi said.

What Makdessi is referring to is how his clothing company doesn’t feature skulls or anything like that on its shirts. Affliction has recently changed up its graphic designs to move away from its previous image and so too have some others.

Now instead of focusing on making shirts to make a guy feel like a bad ass, companies are focusing on making new, colorful designs. It’s about much more than just skulls and foil, it’s about a color scheme and designs that can be worn by anyone.

The initial run of MMA-themed shirts chose to focus on fighters and people related to the sport of MMA. For the clothing companies to succeed now, however, they will need to broaden their horizons to include the people who don’t follow the sport. Years ago, buyers had to know about the sport of MMA to get away with wearing an Affliction shirt; now, someone who doesn’t know anything about the sport can wear it without compromising their own image.

Photo: Affliction’s American Top Team Shirt (

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.