MMA Elite is a Los Angeles based clothing line sponsoring Mixed Martial Arts champions and Hall-of-Famers such as “The Count” Michael Bisping, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson,” Frankie “The Answer” Edgar, “King” Mo Lawal, Mark “The Hammer” Coleman, and a cascade of other top-caliber fighters.
MMA Elite is an official partner of the world-renowned Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and has positioned itself to dominate the MMA fight-gear market. Founded in 2007 by Alden Halpern and Steven Jolna, MMA Elite has shown substantial economic growth in spite of the bear economy.
Jolna had been trying to break into MMA by himself for several years before he met Halpern. Jolna’s desire to be part of the fight game was rooted in his family history. His father was a judo instructor in the Army, while his uncle was a heavyweight champion in the Navy.
Halpern was hesitant about becoming involved in mixed martial arts because he had assumed it was similar to professional wrestling – staged performances such as those dished-up by ECW. Once Jolna finally convinced him to attend the now-historic “Liddell vs Couture II” match, Halpern became instantly hooked, and MMA Elite began its ascension to a premiere place among MMA sponsors and athletic clothing lines.
“We’re not about fighting, we are about the discipline of the sport. Mothers can let their kids wear our clothing. We make it affordable for the average American. Our $8.50 shirts are the same quality as the $30 shirts,” said Halpern.
Growing up on the lower east side of New York City, Halpern was orphaned at a young age. Being shuffled from one foster home to another, he was lucky to be surrounded by good caregivers and always had food on the table – though he always desired more.
“A bologna sandwich was still meat on the able. I had nothing, but grew up with decent people,” said Halpern, who had declined a basketball scholarship to Baldwin College to attend the University of Miami.
The University of Miami, at that time, was where affluent New Yorkers would enroll their kids. Halpern had to take out several student loans to pay for his education, and in order to network with the children of the well-to-do business moguls.
Unfortunately, after graduation, those “friendships” he had forged all fell apart as his classmates trickled back to their high-perched penthouses to look down on all the have-nots. It was a hard lesson, but an important motivating force in his unrelenting drive to succeed. All the while, Halpern has maintained an unimpeachable business integrity in his dealings with people from all walks of life.
“My friendships are genuine and pure. I’m very careful about who I call my friend, but if you are my friend, I don’t care if it’s 4 a.m. and live on the other side of the planet; I’ll be on the next flight out to help you,” said Halpern.
The part of the business that Halpern loves most is the interaction with the people who make it happen: the fighters, the fans, the promoters, and the companies – like Tap Out – that create a form of unity within the sport as MMA continues to grow.
“Our company is based on honesty. We’ll do anything for our fighters. I have got to like them personally in order to sponsor them. We got guys working so hard for the company, you’d think they own it,” said Halpern about the foundation of MMA Elite.
A father of five, Halpern is a firm believer in hard word and self-motivation. Only one of his children is not earning a living, and that is only because he is in middle school.
“I don’t give my kids anything, they earn everything they have. I had my son work here for 8 months and had to fire him because it was hurting our relationship,” said Halpern about his eldest biological son, who has found success in his own right working for the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
Halpern donates 25 percent of his salary to various charities, like the Laurel Foundation – a camp for children with HIV/AIDS – Wounded Warriors, and several others.
“I’m frustrated with most charities. Only about 60 percent of it is supposed to go where it’s supposed to be. I prefer to give it out myself. I don’t need the write off. I come from nothing and it’s about the giving,” said Halpern, who over the holidays sent out over 600 backpacks stuffed with gifts and school supplies.
His giving ways extend beyond just charities. A couple of months back, MMA Elite was giving away an iPad mini and a contestant vying for the prize made a request if he had one.
“This guy asked IF he won, could he upgrade from the mini to the full size iPad. So I asked him privately why and the guy said, that his son couldn’t speak and there was a program on the regular iPad that would help them communicate. Mind you the guy never asked for a hand out, he just kept saying, ‘IF I win.’ Well, to hell with the contest. I sent him one with the program loaded on it and some gear. There is nothing more important than family,” said Halpern.
Halpern and Jolna continue to grow their brand. Their sister company, Elite Pro Series is spreading out into traditional teams sports. The growth of Mixed Martial Arts, paired with the integrity of business owners who give back to the community, is a refreshing sight in an ever more skeptical, jaded society.
Visit MMA Elite at www.mmaelite.net and and Elite Pro Series at www.eliteproclothing.com Follow Alden Halpern on Twitter @MMAELITE_Alden, follow Steven Jolna @MMAELITE_Steven follow MMA Elite @MMAELITEBRAND and follow Elite Pro Series @EliteProSeries
If you would like to contribute to the Laurel Foundation at http://www.laurel-foundation.org/