Eric Watkins is the owner of The Fighter Store, located in Morgantown, West Virginia – in Monongalia County.
Watkins was raised in Morgantown since the age of four years old. At the age of 24, he decided to go to college at West Virginia University as an untraditional freshman, exactly five years late.
At the time, Watkins was training to be a professional fighter and had his first professional fight the first week of school. Like all great boxers – he also has a great nickname – Eric “1 Armed Bandit” Watkins.
Little did he know – but his life was about to change forever.
Watkins is a serial entrepreneur and got started by winning The West Virginia Colligate Business Plan Competition in 2013 – and his first start-up – a designated driver business designed to flatten the bell curve for DUI arrest in Morgantown.
Today – as a Former Professional Fighter and Fight Promoter – Watkins is currently creating an eBay type marketplace specifically for fighters to make money on – called The Fighter Store.
Watkins was a guest on the Positively West Virginia Podcast and spoke with host, Jim Matuga, about his business journey.
How did you get started in the fighting and boxing arena?
“When I was a kid, we used to watch the old UFCs. We would watch those fights. I would watch the old Mike Tysons, the old Roy Jones. Then, around high school, the Ultimate Fighter came out. That show changed my life. I watched every episode, and I mean the whole season. Not just the season finale when Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin went into an all-out war. And, of course, that 15-minute fight, they probably re-showed that fight 30 times because it was getting ratings greater than the World Series. From there, I got into these UFC waves, just watching it all the time,” said Watkins. “I was a young 18 or 19-year-old guy playing rugby; I thought I was the toughest guy in the world. I made a New Year’s resolution when I was 19 to be in Pride, the UFC, which was over in Japan. All the legends fought there. I thought within six months; I could be there.”
“I went to the boxing gym and the MMA gym, and long story short, they wiped the floor with me. I wasn’t as good as I thought I was.”
What is your 30-second pitch for The Fighter Store?
“The Fighter Store is a way for fighters to make more money. I created an eCommerce website that let’s say I make a Jim Matuga shirt, a Jim Matuga leggings and a Jim Matuga headband. I put it on the store with your bio, and you send your fans, your mom, your sister, your teammates to the store. They buy the shirt with a picture of your face on it. The next thing you know, those people can show up at the next fight to support you, wearing the shirt with your face. And, whenever that money gets spent, you as the fighter gets the profit,” explained Watkins.
What is the long-term vision for The Fighter Store?
“When you see a professional fighter, he’s in the UFC, and you’re like ‘Wow. He’s big. He got half a million dollars for that fight.’ Nobody sees the 50 guys behind him that are never going to get that half a million dollars for a fight. The most that guy will get in his career is $5,000. My goal is to get all of those guys on my website to help them make money,” said Watkins.
What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to young entrepreneurs?
“Some of your parents are older. I’m not saying that to offend anyone. But, let’s say, for instance, I tell my parents that I’m going to create DubV Safe Ride [a business Eric founded] to drive home drunk people in the city of Morgantown. They would tell me that it would never work and ask who is going to pay you to drive their car home. That makes no sense. And, you would have to say, I would completely do this. I know the market,” said Watkins. “I see the same thing with The Fighter Store. I believe that I know this market.”
“Follow your passion. If you know it’s there; then it’s probably there. If you would buy it, someone else will buy it,” advised Watkins.
Watkins was a guest on the Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to the full podcast here.
PWV QUICK BITS
- RECOMMENDED BOOK/PODCAST: The Power of Consistency by Weldon Long
- PIECE OF ADVICE: “Follow your passion. If you know it’s there; then it’s probably there. If you would buy it, someone else will buy it,” advised Watkins.
- ONE ACTION THAT CONTRIBUTES TO YOUR SUCCESS: “I work out,” said Watkins.