I recently had the pleasure of getting to know and interview Mr Fergus Dullaghan. Fergus is a Judo international, BJJ player but more importantly heavily involved in both the fightgear brand LUTA and the global charity Fight For Peace. I will publish my interview with Fergus during the week but for now, I asked Fergus to give us an introduction to why and how he got involved with these two brands, LUTA and Fight For Peace.
"I first discovered LUTA at Seni in 2010. I'd been competing there in the London International Judo event (which I won btw ;) and was due to interview Royce Gracie the following day. So once I finished fighting I took the time to wander around and familiarise myself with everything at the show.
This was interesting for me because of a personal experience. I'd spent 6 weeks training in BJJ in Rio in 2007 when I was still a full-time judoka intent on improving my ground game. One night when I was walking home munching a sandwich in Copacobana a bunch of kids who were maybe 8 or nine years old came running up to me, barefoot and shirtless. They started shouting estou com fome! estou com fome! - I didn't know what was going on at first, they were swarming all around me. So my first instinct was simply to protect my wallet and keep walking. Only later when I was thinking about it did my limited Portuguese catch up with what I was hearing...Estou com fome means: I'm hungry.
I'd just walked away from a group of children asking me for some food! I found that very difficult to deal with. Not just the fact that I'd walked away, but the fact that there were so many young street kids looking for food in the first place.
Those of us who train BJJ and submission wrestling know all too well from the history of our own art that Brazil is a country of extreme contrasts. It's beautiful and its ugly in equal measure: That night when the kids had tried to stop me we were about only about 100m from the Copacobana Palace - one of the nicest hotels on the planet - yet just around the corner there were homeless kids who hiding under cars because they were frightened the police would shoot them. The thing that is so frustrating about it all is that Brazil is an emerging economy! It's not like Darfur or Ethiopia! If you can get an education in Brazil then you really stand a chance in life. You can get a good job and haul yourself and your whole family out of poverty. You just need a little bit of luck, lots of hard work and someone to give you that break you need.
I decided that I would try do something to help and a few years after I came back (when I left full-time training) I began to write a travel book on my experiences in Brazil and the history of BJJ. I wanted to find a publisher who would let me dedicate some of the proceeds to a charity that was somehow involved either with education or breaking down the drugs gangs that dominate the favelas - so when I discovered Fight for Peace and heard about its 10 year history in the Complexo da Mare favella doing both of those things I thought "ah ha! here is the charity I'm looking for!" (Now I've just the publisher to find!)
I was introduced to the charity's founder (Luke Dowdney MBE) and I quickly found out that he wasn't the kind of guy to just sit around waiting for donations. Rather he was setting up a clothing company called LUTA (meaning to "fight" or "struggle" in Portuguese). His idea was (and is) for this company to become the main funding mechanism for the charity. He stressed very clearly however that LUTA is a separate entity from the charity. LUTA is a company and it wants to make profits for it's shareholders just like every other enterprise. The only difference was that 50% of those profits will go to Fight for Peace in a "profit-share agreement". I thought this was an amazing idea!
I also loved the fact that LUTA was a new kind of company. Not only was it producing genuinely high-performance fightwear and sports clothing, but it was also challenging the accepted profit-based paradigm that everyone else seems to be operating in. So I was really keen to get involved. At LUTA there is no need for meaningless buzz-words like: "Corporate responsibility" or "investing in the community". LUTA's social mission is such an important and obvious part of what we are doing that we don't have to worry about the taglines. For every £1 that LUTA's investors earn, £1 goes to Fight for Peace - who else is doing that? Moreover as a charity Fight for Peace is so successful that it's a really sound investment. Their boxing program for instance has produced a potential member of the Brazilian 2012 boxing team (Roberto Custodio - who features in LUTA's advert) and in terms of education they've just had their first university graduate from a favella!
I love the fact LUTA reinvests in UK martial arts at a grass roots level too. Part of my job is organising seminars with world class athletes and fighters and helping to bring that knowledge to the average martial artist, both in person and through our column in Fighting Fit magazine. That's why we'll be in Manchester with UFC fighter Frank Mir on July 30th. Again I don't think anyone else in the industry is actually engaging with fighters and training on a real level like LUTA does. There is no nonsense or hype in our camp. That is ultimately because of our favela heritage and a mindset which is entirely focused on helping to fund education and personal development for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. That transfers very naturally to education and personal development for everyone. So we are out there getting our hands dirty!
For instance in the last three months of our LUTA Masterclasses I've participated in the BJJ world record attempt with our Ambassador Ebe Ghansah (Gracie Barra Milton Keyens). I was on the mat for over ten hours and then helped out further by watching the clocks as part of the Guinness World Record Time Keeping Team (from midnight till 5 am - the graveyard shift!). In June I was thrown about by former world judo Champion and LUTA Ambassador Neil Adams and this month (the day after my stag day!!) I was on the pads at our last LUTA Masterclass with European Muay Thai champion Daniel Sam (quite how I felt and performed during that is perhaps best left unsaid though!). Next up it's Frank Mir...so god knows what will happen to me! (laughs).
But anyway, I think people of our generation want to live ethical lifestyles as much as possible. We want products and companies that are brave enough to take a stance against the inequalities in the world. We've seen it with the rise of fairtrade products and now LUTA is pushing the envelope in a new and exciting direction. I think that people choosing LUTA products aren't just wearing some of the best designed high-performance clothing on the market; they are also making a statement. More and More LUTA will become regarded the choice of the intelligent fighter.
The final point is that I'm very proud for all of us - regardless of our style or team affiliation- that it's a martial arts-based company that is now setting the pace for other industries to follow. It reflects well on us all as a community and highlights to the general public what we all already know: that the benefits of martial arts aren't just limited to the athleticism people see on the mat, in the cage or in the ring.
Stay tuned for the 2-part Part Time Grappler interview with Mr Fergus Dullaghan.
Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi ----Did You Like This Article?--- Click here to add The Part Time Grappler to your Favourites / BookmarksThe first thing I saw was a stall for something called "Fight for Peace" and I headed over to see what it was about. (As did Royce actually, which was quite surreal!), I discovered that it was an amazing martial arts and boxing charity that helped kids from disadvantaged backgrounds in the favelas of Rio and in London.