Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and what got you interested in mixed martial arts?
My name is Elisabeth Nuesser. I am a wife, a mom, a sister and a daughter. I am a successful stylist that married a martial artist/designer (my husband Jake) and he introduced me to the world of mixed martial arts. I have always been a fighter in life. I am the only girl with 6 brothers and I had my daughter at 18 years old, and raised her on my own, until Jake and I got married and he adopted her. So I would describe myself as a strong spiritual entrepreneur.
You founded Fight Chix in 2006, how did that start out and what is Fight Chix all about?
Fight Chix started out as a hobby. Like I said, my husband Jake introduced me to martial arts. He has trained in MMA and Jiu Jitsu most of his life, and when the Ultimate Fighter came around I started to understand the backstory of these fighters and their struggles. I started to become a fan of the sport, but fashion wise, the only thing to wear was blood and skulls, and I wanted something for the women to wear who loved this sport.
So I came up with the name and he did the logo. We figured maybe we would make a little extra money each month to take the kids out or something like that. The brand grew through social media challenges and grassroots word of mouth and has become the premiere women’s MMA brand and a true women’s empowerment lifestyle brand.
On your website you write about mixed martial artists being undervalued and that many of them are having to work full time jobs, do you feel this is still the case?
I do believe that. Just recently Al Iaquinta was booked to fight on UFC 205 in New York and didn’t because it didn’t make sense for him financially. This was the first fight in NYC ever and his home state, so it would be a dream fight, but he passed because he has a family to think about. There are reports of the UFC paying fighters less that 4% of the revenue generated? That is crazy.
Progress has been made since the early days, but there have been steps backwards too. Things like the Reebok deal probably hurt fighters more than helped them. When fighters in the top 15 could pull in $50K-100K in sponsorship money from various companies, were now limited to what Reebok was paying, which was $1500 to 40K for a champion. Fighters are some of the most humble and hardworking professional athletes in the world, they just are not being paid that way, yet.
And why do you feel that female fighters are struggling harder than the men while the female fanbase is as large as it is?
Female fighters have started to gain more respect. Gina, Miesha, and obviously Ronda have really paved the way for female fighters. It’s great to see divisions holding their own, because a lot of people thought, it was going to be just Ronda Rousey, and when she was gone, women would be gone from the UFC. Now you have stars like Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Michelle Waterson, Paige Vanzant as well as Cris Cyborg and the whole Invicta FC roster on UFC Fight Pass. Women have opportunities, but the sport as a whole needs to pay the athletes better.
I love how you explain that the women’s voices in the sport were not being heard, as you know it’s my mission to amplify the voices of inspirational women like yourself. What was the driving force behind you wanting to create something that would be a vehicle for them to be empowered and heard?
I feel growing up in a house with 6 brothers being the only girl and then being a young single mother at such an early age, I was felt compelled to fight to be heard. I wanted to be respected all the time. We all have the potential to reach our dreams, but taking that first step is the scariest.
What people forget is, taking that first step, no matter how small it is, it’s a step forward. It’s progress toward where you want to be. When I was 22, I was in hair school full-time, working part-time, and taking care of a child, it was a real challenge, and the only way to get through times like those is through hard work and trying to create as best of a balance as you can until you reach that ultimate goal.
Fight Chix has become an inspiration to women everywhere, Fight Chix is my inspiration everyday and I am the owner….these women look for strength from within to overcome life’s challenges. I am honored that women will wear our apparel under their military uniform, or when they are getting their chemo treatments. If we can add a tiny bit of extra strength to get them over the top and reach their goals, or even inspire them to inspire others, that is a powerful and beautiful accomplishment.
Today Fight Chix is about more than just mixed martial arts and it has grown to become a lifestyle brand for the women who will be the future leaders of the world. What are your goals for the coming years?
I have lots of plans inside and outside of Fight Chix. Jake and I want to continue to grow the brand and focus on the fitness, empowerment and even spiritual side of reaching your full potential. We are sponsoring up and coming fighters and giving them a platform in our Wonder Woman interviews on the site. We also just launched a line featuring a guest designer who just made her pro MMA debut (and won by vicious KO) Savannah Em is a talented artist and fighter, and we hope to partner with more artists that are in line with the brand’s overall message of empowerment.
Personally I want to continue to be a better version of myself. I continue to do hair regularly and have a full client list, plus I also do hair and work for one of the biggest wedding agency’s in Chicago which I love! I enjoy pushing myself creatively in that area and the instant feeling of making people feel good through my work is priceless. I’m continuing to pursue my passion for yoga and meditation as a way to stay healthy and balance out my busy life. I have also started writing a book about my journey in this life. Lastly, Jake and I are looking forward to traveling a bit more too.
Mixed martial arts is still a primarily male dominated sport, what’s it like to be a female CEO in an environment like that? What is the most valuable piece of advice you could give to other female entrepreneurs?
It is a challenge. I have been looked down on, underestimated, and laughed at. It is all about perspective. Using these incidents are fuel for me versus letting them hurt me. To other entrepreneurs plenty of people talk about “doing what you love” and “never give up” and “keep grinding”. That is all true, but I think the real payoff in all of this is in the journey.
The process of planting a small seed and then watching it grow into a giant tree is where I truly feel my success. Fight Chix didn’t make us rich, but we didn’t set out with that as a goal. We wanted to help other people, which we did, and along the way we had some incredible experiences and made true life long friends that are literally part of our family now. I appreciate that process so much. Embrace the struggles and remember who is there with you at your lowest points, because those are your true friends. When you do succeed, stop, take a breath, and enjoy it.
If you could only choose one thing, what would you tell your younger self?
You have an intuition for a reason, USE it!
If someone would tell you that the two of us would be looking back at your incredible success these past few years back in 2005 would you have believed them? You have had to overcome a lot to get where you are today.
I would be shocked! I never thought I would run a women’s empowerment lifestyle brand. I always felt like I would build something but never something like this. My Oma (grandma) my father is from Germany…she was an award winning stylist in 3 different countries in Europe. I thought I would maybe own a salon one day. Maybe I still will 😉 It is crazy the directions life takes you, but sometimes you just have to go for it!
How important are the people around you when it comes to your success?
I don’t think I could have done this without my husband Jake. He is my best friend, he is someone I admire daily and after all he introduced me to combat sports and does 99% of the design work. 😉
I also believe that Fight Chix has has a few meant-to-be moments. I feel that I have met certain people for bigger reasons through this company, like my best friend Tamara AKA (Miss Rara) she has been key to our success. I met her on Myspace 12 years ago. She has been my sister through this entire journey and we have grown together on so many levels. Fight Chix brought us together.
I also appreciate all the fighters and fans we get to work with and meet at live events. I often get stories of what the brand means to them and that inspires me to keep pushing.
Looking back, what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned this far on your journey?
Believing in things or people too much. I caught up in the earlier days of this business thinking: OMG, this is finally it! THIS will be the time we “Make it!” I learned from all these experiences to not put all my eggs in one basket, no more cart before the horse, listen to your instincts, and always do your research.
Name 3 things people don’t know about you.
1. I don’t ever say the word hate, I only use the word dislike.
2. In the 7th grade I played basketball and my team won the championship that year. I was a Forward and my ONLY 2pt shot of the whole season helped us get to the final game!
3. I can’t do a cartwheel
Where can people go online to learn more about you and Fight Chix?