Revgear has been a force in the sport for more than a decade now, and although they got their start on the west coast, they’ve sponsored events here in Pennsylvania and elsewhere on the east coast. I had the opportunity recently to interview Revgear head honcho Paul Reavlin, so here’s what I learned:
When Paul Reavlin graduated from college in the early 1990s, he quickly settled into a job as an accountant, but at he same time, he was a martial arts junkie, and began taking classes in the reality-based martial art of Krav Maga.
Then came an eipiphany. “We were a little frustrated with the equipment we were using,” he said of his training partners. They wanted equipment that would hold up to a high degree of punishment, but yet also remain flexible. Reavlin decided to launch his own martial arts gear company, naming it Revgear, a play on his last name. “I felt like it would be a cool industry to be in,” he said. “I felt there would be a lot of other people who would want the same equipment.”
Reavlin started out small, packing his Mustang convertible with equipment and driving from academy to academy in southern California. Long before MMA was even called Mixed Martial Arts (back then it was known as NHB – No Holds Barred), Reavlin began setting up tables at local underground shows, rubbing elbows with a certain face-painted character, the now-deceased founder of Tapout, Charles “Mask” Lewis.
But Reavlin’s company took a different direction from Tapout, virtually right from the start, establishing itself as a brand that sold professional-grade training equipment. Revgear does sell T-shirts — they are the American dsitributor for Bad Boy shirts and shorts — but its strength lies in its equipment. Those who wear Revgear T-shirts do so because they like the company’s gloves or bags or shin pads, Reavlin said.
Since its inception in 1996, Reavlin transformed his company into a major player in martial arts. He now has a staff of 20, “a group of people who work as hard as I do,” along with administrative offices and a warehouse, he said. It was not easy — surrounding himself with like-minded individuals — but one of the keys to Revgear’s success and longevity. Reavlin said he would also place perseverance and controlling costs as two other important factors. In perservering, Reavlin said he ignored those who doubted him over the years, those who said it couldn’t be done. And by controlling his costs, Reavlin made — and continues to make — smart decisions with his money, not just “pouring it down the drain.”
Over the years, Revgear has not gone gangbusters — supporting a host of the top fighters at the same time. Instead, they have picked their targets carefully, sponsoring events across the country at the local and regional levels. “In every city, there are local events. It’s great, it supports the sport … Everyone plays a role in the growth of the sport,” he said.
Reavlin said he sees the value in sponsoring fighters, in that it is a viable option in terms of a brand’s growth, but also has realized that a fighter appearing on TV or a pay-per-view does not automatically mean Revgear’s website will blow up the next day with orders. Still, he says, “We want to support a lot of the guys out there. They’re on the front lines. They’re our modern-day gladiators.”
And in the very near future, Revgear will be sponsoring a lot of those modern-day gladiators; Reavlin said his company recently signed a contract with the UFC to allow it to sponsor fighters. Reavlin said he has verbal commitments from a number of UFC fighters, including Dan Hardy, Nam Phan, Kamal Shalorus, and Roy Nelson. In addition, Bad Boy’s official Mauricio “Shogun” Rua UFC 128 walkout T-shirt is prominently displayed on Revgear’s website.
Despite the upcoming exposure on MMA’s biggest stage, don’t be surpised to see Revgear at smaller shows along the east coast. Reavlin said early on in his company’s history, he realized that although dotted with small states, the east coast has a high concentration of the nation’s population, and along with that, a great many martial arts academies. “The people in Pennsylvania … they like their martial arts,” Reavlin said.
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