Mixed martial arts has developed a large and diverse following in the last few years. Some people have picked up the sport to get in shape, others for self-defense, and then there are those who see it as a career. But if there is a common ground, it’s that all MMA enthusiasts want to look cool while punching and grappling. That’s why they come to Mulianingsih Kurnia.
During the day, the 24-year-old Ningsih, in red, has a 9 to 5 office job, but in her free time, she supplies fighting gear to people you wouldn’t want to mess with. She started the business with two of her friends, Syenni and David, and has watched her empire grow.
How does a nice young woman like you start selling gear to MMA fighters?
Maybe it’s exactly because I’m a nice young woman [laughs]. I first got involved in this through a Body Combat class at Fitness First around two years ago. I noticed many of the participants were taking the fighting moves seriously, to the point of accessorizing themselves with gear like hand wraps.
I found out that there was a very limited number of sellers of such products, let alone ones selling the high-quality original brands. I started to place some orders from the official retailers through the Internet. I intended to sell the stuff to my fellow Body Combat participants and it turned out that the response was very positive.
After a while, I started receiving orders from students at MMA dojos in Jakarta. That is when I realized where the real market was and I started expanding my line of products from hand wraps to gloves, apparel and punching bags. Since there wasn’t that much competition in the business, my service quickly gained momentum.
You majored in biology and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. How serious are you about this business?
I never thought about not expanding this business. In fact, due to order volume, I’m now listed as the official Indonesian distributor of the Venum brand from Brazil. And because of that, my shop was invited to the MMA Tournament One Fighting Championship a few months ago, which also explains why I got the opportunity to interview its founder, Victor Cui, for My Jakarta [smiles]
Are you interested in fighting as well?
Hmm, not really. If you look at all the mixed martial arts dojos, you’ll find them dominated by males. There are female fighters but not many. I don’t think I’d enjoy grappling and rolling all around the floor with boys. But I enjoy watching an MMA fight, with all their technique and stuff. My buyers are also predominantly males. Females account for about 30 percent of all purchases.
Waiting until there are enough female fighters before you join doesn’t seem realistic. I mean, you can’t choose to be mugged by a woman, right?
Well, yes, but I don’t really see myself learning MMA for self-defense. It’s more of a sport with its technique. With self-defense, I think every human, or at least me, is programmed to just get themselves out of immediate physical danger by kicking or hitting the assailant with whatever object happens to be at hand, and then just running like crazy.
What about the Chinese-made counterfeit products?
I hate them. Those crooks and liars are ruining my business. I’d be perfectly fine with them if they told the buyers that they’re selling non-original products, just like you hear sellers of other items admit that they’re selling high-quality counterfeits. I can’t think of why I would buy an original brand if I knew I’d end up using it only for fashion, but these people claim that they’re selling the real ones.
How can you tell the real products from the fakes?
The price really shows. Most of the counterfeit MMA items are the apparel. Original products may cost between Rp 500,000 and Rp 600,000 [$53 and $63], while the fakes are Rp 350,000 to Rp 400,000. I think that’s expensive considering the lower quality. Besides, for some reason their shorts are really shorter than real ones.
Any plans on producing your own line?
We have actually been producing our own line since May of last year. Now we’re hoping that people can appreciate our own local emerging brand more.
You ever punched someone in the face?
I think I did once when I was 5. It was because my deskmate at school threw my stuff away after it crossed this imaginary dividing line on our desk. I punched him in the face, and I think he punched me back.
Mulianingsih Kurnia was talking to Antonny Saputra.