Everything For Mixed Martial Arts
Nolan Hong (left) and Mark Park cater
to martial arts athletes and fight fans
at Fighter’s Corner
Nolan Hong and Mark Pang make the rounds to get the word out to martial arts athletes and fight fans about their retail store, Fighter’s Corner.
The store, located on King Street across from Aala Park, has become part of the central nervous system of the mixed martial arts (MMA) community. Hong and Park also look forward to sharing their knowledge with people who don’t know anything about the sport, and they feature the fights on a flat screen TV in the store.
“Mixed martial arts is about to explode,” says Pang, who has entered amateur fighting tournaments. “I’m one of the biggest fans of the sport. It’s my passion. We feel it’s bigger than boxing.”
MMA events can be viewed on pay per view and SPIKE TV. More than 60,000 people attend the national and international events at venues such as the MGM Grand in Vegas. Some of the local tournaments Fighter’s Corner reaches out to include Rumble on The Rock, Superbrawl, Warrior’s Quest, Full Contact Showdown, Ikon Sport and Suma.
MMA consists of muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, kenpo and jiujitsu. The shop carries training gear including ghis, pads, helmets and shorts, as well as T-shirts and DVDs. Hong and Park pride themselves in creating the first store dedicated to MMA in Hawaii. Clothing brand names they carry include Sprawl, Tapout, Raze, Bloodline, Fokai, Yamato Damashi, Pure Breed, Ouano and Gameness.
The co-owners, both ’98 Punahou grads, didn’t get to know each other until a mutual friend suggested they get together because of their mutual passion for MMA training, which they’ve been doing for the past three years. Park trains with Suzui’s Shootfighting Hawaii, Hong with Burton Richardson’s Jeet Kune Do.
Hong, who also has entered amateur tournaments, remembers the very day the idea for the business struck him: He was performing as a costumed character on Ala Moana Center’s Centerstage last year.
“After doing a Christmas show, I called Mark and said, what do you think about doing an MMA store? And he said, OK, let’s do it.”
Owning their own business seemed second nature as both partners come from entrepreneurial families. Hong, who has a theatrical resume that includes a role as a prince in Lisa Matsumoto’s Ohia Productions and appearing in a MidWeek TV commercial, comes from a dynasty of business owners. His grandfather opened House of Hong, Chuck’s Steakhouse, Lewers Street Loft and Lanai, Charlie’s Tavern and Waikiki Alii Market. He says he was raised in the restaurant business while his mother worked 10- to 12-hour days in the family business with her four brothers.
Park’s father owns Credit Bureau of the Pacific, which is affiliated with the credit reporting agency Equifax. He left his job as a business development manager with Pacific Collections to focus on Fighter’s Corner full time. Hong also left his job as a Sprint business sales representative.
One of the reasons Park was convinced the store would be a good idea was that he had ordered several Christmas presents online for his fighter friends.
“The high price of shipping and the long waiting just made me think there’s got to be a better way for people like me to get these things in Hawaii,” he says. “With our store, people can try it on and feel it, unlike ordering online.”
Many people warned the two friends not to go into business together, so they sought the advice of lots of friends in businesses who both succeeded and failed. The best advice they got was to make sure to communicate and to set aside regular meeting times where issues can be talked out. Also, to separate the business relationship from their personal one.
To promote the store, they wear their logo T-shirts and caps to events, where they hand out flyers as well.
“The community wants us to succeed, and the announcers plug our store at events. We place our banners at events, and some folks have put a link to our website on their websites,” notes Park. “Word of mouth has been the best.”
The partners encourage others to seek out proper training, and give their insight as to what schools might be best for those who are interested in taking up mixed martial arts for exercise and self-defense.
Surrounded by all the attire and fellow enthusiasts, Hong and Park couldn’t be happier.
“It’s like buying your own Disneyland if you like Disney characters,” says Hong. “We make new friends every day, and the best part is we get to try out the new equipment that comes in every week.”
Fighter’s Corner is located at 405 N. King Street. Store hours are Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 599-4448 or log onto www.fighterscorner.net.
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