With cards being mostly the thing of the past fans of their retrospective sports, look for something else to buy and possibly trade or sell in a few years. Collecting items is still huge around any sport and the company Round 5 has given that option to the MMA community.
Owner Damon Lau started the company Round 5 in 1997 and talks began with Randy Couture about a possible collectible figure development. Things continued to develop and now the company has an exclusive agreement with the UFC to bring collectible figurines to any fan.
The question many ask about the development of the figurines and what it takes to put a fighter's collectible together from start to finish. Round 5 was nice enough to share with me their process and what it takes from the mold to being shipped to the store. Here we go.....
Step 1 - We need to decide who will be in the Series, this is the hardest part of the whole process because the figures don't come out for up to a year so we need to predict who will be popular characters in year's time.
Step 2 - Now we need to decide what fight we want to create the figure from, this means the fighters shorts, sponsors, hairstyle, tattoos, needs to be accurate for this time period.
Step 3 - We have to choose the pose and facial expression that each figure will have. We try and pick iconic poses and expressions i.e. Rampage Howl, Chuck Liddell victory pose.
Step 4 - Now we source images to begin the design process. What is needed:
a. Reference photos that capture iconic moment
b. Reference photos for designers of facial features, etc.
Step 5 - We create the initial sculpts, these are a combination of hand crafted clay sculpts and 3D imaging
a. These go through several changes within R5, and also through Zuffa, and also by the fighters themselves, all of these are approved by Round 5, Zuffa, and usually by the fighters themselves
b. Once approved the go into PU (Poly Urethane) Phase. We take the clay sculpt put it in a silicone mold (The clay sculpt is destroyed by this process so there is no turning back at this point)and they make a PU copy,
c. PU copy is a canvas for painters, they need three exact hand painted copies of each figure for our offices various offices and factories, so when we make changes to one copy, we need to change all three.
d. It should be noted that while Round 5 figures aim to accurately represent the look of each fighter, we also make our figures as caricatures this means that we are trying to capture the essence the of fighter as much as we are the look.
Step 6 - Segmentation's Phase: We now dissect the body and the head of the figure at 8 optimal spots for range of motion and muscle alignment for articulation
Step 7 - Now we create molds of the each figure
a. All heads the Series are created on one Mold because they need to be injected at higher pressure so they can have the maximum amount of detail( our molds weigh thousands of pounds and need to be moved by cranes in the factory).
b. The bodies are created on a different mold, we will have one mold per body and instead of having 8 separate bodies on a mold (like the heads) we have 8 of the same bodies on the mold
c. All the parts are then hand polished, and quality inspected for details
d. This process takes 2 months alone!
Step 8 - Painting: All Round 5 products are hand painted!
a. This process is completed along an assembly line with rows of painters who each paint one part of a figure i.e. one painter airbrushes the body, then passes to the next painter, he paints whites of eyes, then he passes, to next painter, he paints, iris, then he passes it to the next painter he places pupil, then he passes it the next painter who paints eyelashes etc., this done for every part, literately hundreds of people are involved in the product of each and every figure.
Step 9 - Packaging
a. Each package is designed for the specific figure, so that its doesn't distort the figure and its display in the package so custom molded in cavities are designed for each fighter.
b. Bios on each fighter are written,
c. We try and capture action shots the fighter in the same position as our figure
Step 10 - Assembly: We now have painted parts and custom packages all ready for assembly, but our figures have still not been assembled...
a. Round 5 figures have 8 points of articulation, which means that 8 people put each figure together, another puts into packaging ,
b. Another person who puts in blister card with info into package,
c. The package is then sonic welded ,
d. Then we add the decals and Hologram (and for limited editions, a number) is put onto packages
e. For limited editions we actually tailor miniature version of the fighters walk out shirt, the artwork comes direct from the manufactures and is an exact copy.
f. For championship editions, we create the belt that the fighter actually won if it was the current UFC belt, or the Ultimate belt we copy the belts exactly.
As you can see the process can be very difficult to go through and is very time consuming in order to make the likenesses almost seamless. With the process taking that long it's not surprise the Round 5 company continues to expand their ideas and creativity.
If you would like more information on the company or to purchase some of the collectibles you can go on their website or you can find them on Twitter.If you are a fan of collecting things and have yet to jump onto the MMA bandwagon, there is no better time than now.