The Story of FLOW
After being exposed to Brazilian jiujitsu in high school upon watching UFC 1, FLOW founder Gene Yu slowly began training at Ralph Gracie’s academy in Mountain View (1995). Later on, Gene attended West Point, where he dedicated his sports career to becoming a collegiate boxer after being crushed during a mandatory freshman year boxing class. After West Point, Gene joined the U.S Army and eventually ascended to its special operations branch, also known as the “Green Berets”. While in Special Forces, Gene was further exposed to mandatory mixed martial arts training, which he loved with a passion and attempted to incorporate as much as possible in the daily regimen of special operations team life.
Even after leaving the military, Gene continued his passion with mixed martial arts and always took the time to stop by local fight gyms in and around Asia, to train with local fighters. Over time, Gene accidentally built an extensive network in the Asia region, in the nascent and growing MMA scene in Asia. During one trip to a fight gym in Taipei, Gene noted that local grapplers and fighters were generally wearing Japanese-themed brands. Gene asked why they weren’t wearing any local Chinese-themed brands, and the short answer was that there weren’t any — so, Gene decided to build some simple MMA products that were Chinese-aesthetic themed. It didn’t make sense to Gene that China was the origin of martial arts as a discipline, body of study, and profession, and there wasn’t a Chinese-themed MMA brand for the 1.3 billion ethnic Chinese people across the world who share the same pride in its martial and cultural history.
Upon arriving in Hong Kong, Gene met the founder and CEO of Round5 (official UFC and Bruce Lee action figurine company), Barron Lau, at a networking event, and saw the opportunity to take FLOW to much higher level with Barron’s expertise and experience. After pitching FLOW’s concept, grassroots approach, and persona, Barron immediately saw that MMA in Asia was in the same stage that he saw in the mid-2000s when he was selling Round5 action figurines after UFC events from the back of pick-up trucks. Barron saw providence and potential in the concept of being first-to-market in Asia, and partnered with Gene in FLOW and began scoping out a much larger ambitious plan for a full-fledged MMA brand, complete with fight gear, jiujitsu gi, and other apparel.
Shortly after meeting Barron, Gene heard that former UFC fighter Andy Wang, the first ethnic Chinese Brazilian jiujitsu black-belt, was traveling in Taiwan. Gene immediately jumped on a plane and traveled to Taipei to meet Andy at a fight gym, and after being pummeled into the ground, pitched him on participating in FLOW as the head of its Fighter Development ambitions. As Gene explained to Andy, FLOW’s ambitions are more than just being a fight gear and apparel brand — it is about growing and building MMA in the greater China region to inspire modern pride in its martial history and culture. Andy Wang has over thirty professional MMA fights to his name, top medals in the the highest-level of grappling competitions, and trained full-time in professional gyms of lore like Grappling Unlimited, Machado BJJ, and Xtreme Couture.
With Andy’s lifetime of professional MMA training and experience, Gene took Andy on a two-week trip to Beijing and Shanghai to visit China’s MMA gyms, where nearly every Chinese and Mongolian fighter stepped up and challenged Andy. After the experience (and beating down every fighter), Andy was hooked on the idea that China had the raw talent and potential for a truly great champion, and moved to Beijing to build out fighter development under the FLOW banner in 2012. Andy is currently training several Chinese MMA fighters, building out a China-wide BJJ association and tournament schedule, and also testing and proofing all of FLOW’s fight gear and apparel for quality based on his experience.
Finally, Gene met Carol Chen in Hong Kong, a highly experienced entrepreneur whose range spanned establishing the first American company to successfully manufacture couture cheerleading uniforms overseas in China by building her own factory, and creating her own sportswear line in Los Angeles, which sold in over 300 stores across the States. Again, understanding the potential and unique niche market of being first-in-Asia, Carol jumped onto Team FLOW and tested her hand at designing, developing, and creating a highly evocative and unique look that takes modern high fashion and couture elements and mixes them with ancient Chinese art and cultural themes.
Poised with the network across mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, FLOW MMA is ready to continue churning out innovative and disruptive designs for the fight world that have never been seen before. More and more as mixed martial arts becomes more mainstream, the MMA apparel market is ready for something less harsh, and something more meaningful than skulls-and-bones and death stories. Martial arts has always been more than merely beating an opponent senseless and barbarically — it is about self-discovery, the journey, and the forest, rather than the trees. FLOW MMA is here to channel that warrior spirit, through art and finesse, and to communicate the evolution of the great Chinese warriors and heroes of the past as their modern reincarnation today — in the form of mixed martial arts and its gauntlet of competition.