Big business stalwarts bet on MMA start-up
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A start-up that tries to turn mild-mannered worker bees into fighting machines might seem like an unlikely candidate to win investments from a group of top Australian executives.
But five prominent members of the business community are part of a $2 million funding round for Wimp 2 Warrior – an intensive 20-week mixed martial arts (MMA) training program that promises to do what it says on the tin.
The business is headed up by Nick Langton, who left his job at the top of Bridges Financial Services two years ago to operate Wimp 2 Warrior full-time. The former financial adviser has spent the last 12 months wooing his high-profile investors.
In 2018, MLC boss Geoff Lloyd backed the start-up, and ex-Foxtel chief Richard Freudenstein agreed to fund the venture over coffee earlier this year.
Graham Burke, a 30-year veteran of Village Roadshow, and Origin Energy chief executive Frank Calabria have also invested.
Combat sport is a far cry from the usual technology and property-based ventures that attract this class of investor, but Geoff Lloyd has a simple explanation for how he was convinced to support the business.
“There is a significant scope to build out the gym licence model,” he says. The vision isn’t dissimilar to the Zumba and Les Mills brands of fitness training that have become household names and gym staples over the last two decades.
The millions of MMA fans itching to get into the hexagon themselves are an appealing market in size alone.
“These guys don’t invest in things willy nilly.”
— Nick Langton, Wimp 2 Warrior
It’s a global demographic that Langton and founder of the business, Richie Cranny, have already started to capture.
Since its humble beginnings with a class size of 26 in a single gym north of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the pair have spent the last five years fleshing out an ambitious plan for global expansion.
The Wimp 2 Warrior licence has been sold to more than 50 gyms across eight different countries, where participants pay about $2500 for the full 20-week program that includes more than 100 training sessions.
And Langton has no intention of stopping the expansion.
“We now have the chance to put millions of people in Wimp 2 Warrior gyms,” he says.
Langton hopes to have 300 licensed operators by the end of 2020, and his confidence has only been boosted with the support of business celebrities.
“It was really gratifying when Geoff [Lloyd] first came and invested in the business,” he says. “It doesn’t impact much in the day-to-day operations, but it gives you the confidence that you can adequately articulate the business and the opportunities.
These guys don’t invest in things willy nilly.”
Key to these investment plans are the ongoing endorsements from MMA royalty. There are few bigger names in the sport than Irish superstar Connor McGregor, whose coach John Kavanagh has been running a version of Wimp 2 Warrior from his Dublin gym since 2015.
For Wimp 2 Warrior’s next step, Langton is looking to crowd-funding through the Birchal service. The capital raised from that campaign will help fund a fresh round of expansion.
And he believes the second round of expansion will be smoother given the expertise the business can now draw on.
”It’s the old ‘break glass in case of emergency’ principle,” he says of the knowledge provided by these initial investors. “You don’t always need to use it, but you know it’s there when it’s needed.”
Article written by Lucas Baird.