My lone concession to MMA merchandising remains a seven-inch plastic replica of Royce Gracie, which sits on a desk I don't use and resembles ancient character actor Henry Silva more than it does the UFC's first tournament champion. (I once purchased a two-feet-in-diameter toy Octagon, thinking it would lend atmosphere to a utility room. Instead, people saw it and stopped coming over. It now sits, disassembled, in my basement. I think mice sleep on it, judging by the pellets.)
My own disinterest aside, MMA paraphernalia has become very big business. Round 5, a company specializing in figurines, was reputed to have broken seven-figure sales in 2009 alone. Jakks Pacific, which produces an endless series of poseable figures that can break each other's limbs, topped $3 million in profits for the second quarter of 2010, aided in part by its association with the UFC.
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In an effort to continue its upstart success, Round 5 announced this week that it would be introducing a new line of "UFC Live" statues depicting famous bouts. The first, Chuck Liddell versus Randy Couture, will be released this fall.
While I appreciate both companies working to provide ancillary income for licensed fighters, I have to say that no innovation will ever approach the imagination of the Japanese, who have released some of the most fascinating tie-in products this sport will ever see: Don Frye ramen noodles, a Mike Tyson-Akebono alarm clock, and birth control bearing the face of Antonio Inoki, among others. Until U.S. companies can think outside the box -- a Tito Ortiz paperweight, an "Art of War" reprint with a foreword by Frank Mir -- I'm afraid my disposable income will remain directed at theme restaurants and repurchasing DVDs on Blu-Ray. Once you've worn a pair of Fedor Emelianenko flip-flops, everything else seems irrelevant.