For better or worse, I have always been a straight shooter. I have found that speaking my mind can be a curse but it can also be a gift. In the military i’d get bitched at all the time for speaking out of line and jumping the chain but I didn’t care, if someone needed help or a job needed done, I was going to do what I had to do to make it happen. If scumbag McGee wouldn’t tell our superiors what was up, then I’d leapfrog them and go right to who I knew would handle a situation. When everything is said and done I want to make sure I have at least one thing left, my integrity. No matter how I come across, no matter what I do, I do it with good intentions and do it openly and honestly. I am very opinionated and I’m very black and white in regards to what I believe. I’ll never pretend to like someone I don’t for the sake of anything. I will never play both sides of a coin, that is not how I am. I accept that my delivery isn’t always socially acceptable, but I believe people have a right to know the truth. Always the truth. If companies are doing something shady, it needs to come out. If a Gi brand is run by violent ex-felons, people should know. If a BJJ instructor is fostering a sick sexually exploitative environment, I’m going to scream it from my soap box. That is who I am.
I began working with Brendan from GiReviews.net after I did a guest review for him. He told me had too many Gis to review, some that had been sitting for months and could use help. I was super excited, I love BJJ, I was going 5-6 days a week for 4 hours a day when I first started (I train 4 days a week now) and loved Gis. At the beginning, I just wrote reviews. Brendan sent me a bunch he had been sitting on, then eventually had companies sending them to me directly. I usually wore a Gi for 3 weeks or so before I finished the review. I’d alternate between the Gis I was reviewing during the week. Then I would send everything I had in a word document to Brendan who would add it to the site. It was pretty badass from my perspective. I got a bunch of free Gis, what’s not to like about that?
Over time, I gradually started to become more of a part of GR than I was in the beginning. I became an admin of the facebook page, had admin rights to the site itself and added reviews all by my lonesome. It was around this time that we talked about taking GR to the next level. We wanted to blog about more than just Gis and even go to the big tournaments and make videos, we also started the podcast around this time. This was a big crossroads because it was here that we decided from there on out, everything would be 50/50. Not from our used Gi sales, but from any products we made, collabed with, ads etc.
One of the things that always kind of irked me was that people would always say things like “haha thanks Brendan!” on our facebook page, when generally speaking, it was me posting. People have this image of Brendan as this super friendly, integrity filled human being who can do no wrong and is there just to help people.
I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.
We made those 97% patches so people could express their stance on the Team Lloyd Irvin rape issues. We sold them as 5″ patches for $10 (I think it was $10 anyway) as pre-order. After sending everything to the company we used to make them (Carlos from the Handprint Store) Brendan messaged me saying that we could pocket an extra couple hundred of dollars if we sent the people 3.5″ patches instead, even though they had already paid for 5″ patches. That was the first time I suspected Brendan of being a complete phony. Deep down I was thinking “who could do that to people and genuinely be a nice guy?”. I loved working with GR. The community interaction was awesome. I loved meeting all of the new people. Maybe that’s why I let this first instance slide and just chalked it up to momentary greed blinding him. I can tell you this though, no one has momentary greed like that. That’s something that’s rooted in you, the ability to screw people over that is. This took place on January 24th, well after we had started the pre-sale and decided on 5″ patches.
Around the same time we were coming out with our Hoth Gi with Strike Fightwear. It was basically Strike and myself doing all of the work. I shipped all of the US orders out personally from my basement in 2 days. 160 something Gis. Being that we were 50/50 on everything, Brendan received half of GRs share of the profit. You may notice I didn’t actually do a review of the Hoth. Because I don’t think someone can sell their own product unbiased. Even if you use every effort not to, you don’t know what you’re going to do subconsciously. Brendan said that regardless of how much work I did, that the stuff he did couldn’t be attributed dollar amounts, podcasts, etc . So regardless if was working on projects that earned us money or not and he wasn’t, it should still be 50/50. Ok, fair enough. But then I asked him why he was selling Gi patches and taking 100% of the profit and I got nothing. He said because he invested the money into ordering them. Which contradicts his whole point about us doing working that isn’t earning us money, but is bringing people/viewership to the brand. But let’s be honest, his podcasts were garbage and he only did I think 3 of them. When I started GR, it had around 1,500 fans. Now it has almost 6,000. To ignore the fact that I contributed to that number was extremely disrespectful. To be fair, I made a bunch of shitty memes with no real value that got a ton of people to like the page, but hey, I’m all about the giggles.
Then all of the sudden, literally out of nowhere, Brendan tells me is opening his own kids brand, Ok! Kimonos and things start to make sense. Brendan had zero intention of ever doing anything on a grand scale with GR. His whole intention of GR was to create a seemingly unbiased and community oriented website that he could gather fans and emails from. Within a week of launching Ok! Kimonos Brendan switched our GR instagram over to @OkKimonos (without telling me before doing it, and then telling me I should change my personal instagram to a GR one, it wasn’t something that was ever discussed). Thousands of followers of GR instantly became fans of a childrens brand they had never heard of before. His email lists? Well he got you there too. His posting dropped down to virtually nothing on our facebook page, unless it was of course to pump his brand in your face. I kept posting, but it was just me posting, unless of course you count his Ok! Kimonos advertisements that he was always posting.
He edited old GR articles and reposted them, for example, “The Best Gi for your body type”. Guess which Gi it is? Ok! Kimonos. “Holiday Gift Guide”? Ok! Kimonos. “Top Rated BJJ Gis”? Ok! Kimonos.
Brendan always talked about Gary Vaynerchuk and the Thank You Economy, Crush it and other big marketing names, and although people who aren’t douchebags treat people nice naturally, Brendan was actually using his nice guy persona as a marketing ploy. You may notice his over emphasis when he types anything having to do with thanking the community. What’s sad is that I loved our community, and to Brendan, they were just $ signs. He says he doesn’t wholesale his Ok! Kimonos products so he can “give you the BEST customer service”, that’s bullshit. He does it so he can set the price point.
He sent virtually all of the prominent BJJ bloggers free Ok! Kimonos gear and t-shirts. Not an attempt to be nice, but for marketing and as a shield for his brand. He loves the scratch my back mentality. His network was well thought out. He even admitted to me that he would be stupid not to use GR to promote his brand. Maybe so, but integrity comes first. If his intentions had been clear to everyone, no one would follow GR.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with affiliate links, especially if you provide good information. I do have an issue with sponsors paying you to run adverts and then not telling your partner. Then your partner finding out from a not deleted quickly enough facebook message, because you weren’t responding to your emails.
DoorDie Gi collab. This was a fucking nightmare. Communication was tough. It took forever for this to get started but once Pascal and I got on the phone and knocked down some ideas, we got stuff underway pretty quickly. I had never really heard anything negative about DoorDie other than a copyright dispute they had with someone, which seemed like bullshit, but it was months prior and I didn’t remember it at the time. Regardless, it didn’t seem like a big deal. During the middle of our collab Brendan lost his fucking mind because they didn’t send him a sample Gi. From the get go, we always talked about one sample. They got sent an A2, which is my size, so it got sent to me. The emails between Brendan and DoorDie reached toddler level of hissy fit on his part. They were rude, unprofessional and it seemed like he was trying to piss them off enough to pull the plug. Accusing them of lying when they said their factory was on holiday…all sorts of stuff. I talked to them on the phone and told them to ignore him and that I had no idea why he was acting like that. We had a lot of people wanting the collab Gi, so I wanted to go through with it, plus as a freelance photog and designer who had just moved I needed the extra cash, plus I didn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t work with them. We had already made a commitment and I planned to see it all the way through. Brendan again contributed zero to the collab and even made it almost not happen.
Our next planned collab was with Tatami Fightwear. I was the sole point of contact for these collabs. Garreth from Tatami had sent a lot of design concepts that I didn’t feel were right, but kept suggesting to him to keep it subtle. He eventually sent an amazing design concept to me one day, and then asked if I wanted to have the kids in my kids class review his kids gi line. I thought this was super awesome on their part and mentioned both things to Brendan. Brendan said no because Tatami stole his brands design aesthetic. It was because they were his competitors. I really wanted to get those kids gis to review so the kids could get some new ones (they needed them) and worked it out through another company that I could review them through there, and accidentaly sent a message I had meant for someone else to Garreth before I had asked him if it had been ok, which was dicked on my part, to be fair. Brendan told me he wanted nothing to do with Tatami and was even not reviewing the Estilo 4.0 he had sent them because he hated them, and now magically is collabing with them again. It’s likely because the design Tatami came up with is awesome (his tone changed when I sent him the design) and he knows it will sell well and he can make money off of it. That was the final straw. Saying the kids I teach who are in need of Gis can’t get them because they are his brands competitors.
He stole from me, he TRIED to steal from our fans, and his super uber nice guy persona is bullshit. He’s a master manipulator, I’ll give him that. It’s the sickest thing in the world to see someone play off peoples inner good to market themselves. Why did I write this? Because I choose to pick a side, always. Because I don’t believe in people not having as much information as they should to make decisions. And I can caveat all of this with these being my perceptions. The truth is the only thing we have that can help us make the correct decisions.
A lot of this is cold hard facts, another fair portion is my perception of things and how they unfolded, take it all for what you will. I quit GR despite it being a hugely fun time of my life. I met tons of couple people while doing it, and I thank them for being great people, fans and BJJers.