By Jordan Newmark | 16 January 2019
For some martial artists, their truth isn’t only on display when they throw their fists and feet. It can be seen in what they wear, it can be heard in what they sing, and it lives in everything they create.
Case in Point, UFC Featherweight Fighter Andre “Touchy” Fili
“I feel like most of what I have - really, anything I have - I have had to fight for,” tells Fili. “Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, I think that spills into a lot of things in my life.
Everything I have, I had to fight, bleed, and struggle for. A lot of people who are around me are the same way and I think that spills over into whatever I’m focused on. Whether it’s martial arts or making music or designing the next t-shirt, all these different things are just a representation of myself and the people I choose to keep around me.”
The vibrantly-tattooed veteran of Team Alpha Male is referring to the multi-faceted brand he and his childhood friends began developing in 2015, which is all under the banner of Outcasts & Underdogs.
“We really looked out for each other, raised each other, and held each other accountable,” said Fili of this core, which formed in 8th grade, that became each other’s support system in a community where there was none.
Coming from broken homes on streets littered with drugs and violence, these O&U “lifers” knew if they wanted to survive and thrive they needed to do it together, which is the inherent message of their label.
“The t-shirts, the music, and, even, the fighting is an extension of my group of friends who want to create something,” explains Fili. “We’re a group of kids who come from pretty humble beginnings and we didn’t want to be held back. I think that can be applied to so many people.
You may not have grown up how I grew up, but if there’s something you are trying to overcome or if you’ve been counted out or if you’re the underdog, if you’re someone who isn’t supposed to be successful at what you want to be successful at - we’re sort of a symbol to rally behind.
That O&U logo is something you can rally behind and know that there are other people out there who have a similar battle, trying to beat the odds and are succeeding, and they believe in you.”
In MMA’s never-ending sea of unflattering, tribal barbed wire t-shirts, Outcasts & Underdogs’ apparel style is a refreshing blend of California punk and classic tattoo flash. It’s a collaborative effort between Fili, who has probably shook his head at more cliche-looking “walkout” tees than he can remember, and Seattle-based graphic designer Matt Worthey (@wortheydesign on Instagram). Basically, they’re clothes Fili likes, feels comfortable in, and would wear out in the world, not just a gym.
“It’s a creative process between him and I where we kind of go back and forth,” discloses Fili. “He’s a huge part of it, I don’t know if he even realizes how huge of a part it is he is. I’ve never been disappointed in something he’s given to me, so I keep going to him. Sometimes I have an idea and I bring it to a tattoo artist they go this will work, this won’t, let me fix it up a little bit. Sometimes I go to a tattoo artist and they have something already drawn-up and I think that’s cool and we make it more personal to me.
That’s what it’s like working with Matt Worthey, he has all sorts of rad ideas. I’d like to think I have some decent ones. Between his design proficiency and me throwing random shit at the wall, we do some cool stuff.”
Similar to the O&U gear, Fili’s foray into music is both about enjoying the process in making it as well as partaking it aka listening to it. Raised on rap to later discover punk, Fili’s first love was music before he found fighting.
With three releases up and available to download on Bandcamp, music is still a favorite outlet of his with Fili buying beats, finding producers, and organizing studio sessions. It’s a way for Fili to work with his friends whose passion is music and it’s an avenue for Fili to commit to something without the high-stakes like in professional fight career.
“My Hip Hop is Hip Hop”
“I’m not trying to do some corny [expletive] and rap about fighting. I can put a verse on a song and it will sound good. There’s not too many things I give a fuck about, but what I do give a fuck about - I want to be good at it.
When I’m rapping, I’m really making good hip hop that you can put on and enjoy. When I’m fighting, I’m not trying to be a cool rapper who is fighting. Each of those things are their own entity. I don’t try to overthink music. I just try to have fun.
What’s the worst-case scenario, I make a song that people don’t like? I’m not getting knocked out in front of my grandma and my mom, millions of people watching at home and thousands of people watching in person.
If I make a bad song, they’re not going to make a meme about me getting knocked out. The consequences are not there. Fighting is not a joke. Fighting is my entire life. Music is just fun.”
“Something I’ve learned about myself, instead of getting hung up on the highs and the lows, ride them out and use them for what they are,” adds Fili. “You can use the highs for motivation and creativity, you can use the lows for motivation and creativity. It’s all context, it’s all what you make it.”
I Don’t Try to Fake the Funk
The whole Outcasts & Underdogs idea is the whole crew of guys I grew up just kind of helping each other out. We kind of raised each other. That’s where the whole idea came from whether it’s the clothing brand or the music, it’s all under this O&U banner. It just stems from the way I grew up, the way the people around me grew up.
We all sort of came from broken homes and were surrounded by drugs and violence and other kinds of bullshit. Each of us had a parent at home, actually a couple of us didn’t have any parents at home, most of us had at least one parent at home, but we were coming from broken homes. We really looked out for each other, raised each other, and held each other accountable.
The message from Outcasts & Underdogs is about beating the odds. About being the best version of ourselves. Knowing that even if everything is stacked up against you and that nobody believes in you that if you believe in yourself and can have a small group of people around you that invest in you - you help them achieve their dreams, they help you achieve your dreams - then you can accomplish anything you want.
They All Have Outcasts & Underdogs Tattoos… We’re All Lifers
I think if you saw me walking down the street you might get the wrong idea of me. People think I’m going to be this punk kid who isn’t well-spoken or whatever. I feel like I’m someone who is articulate. I feel like I carry myself a certain way where I’m trying to be respectful of everybody. As far as an artistic direction, everything I do is loud or aggressive or obnoxious. That’s just me. I don’t know.
The first song I ever recorded was with one of my best friend’s. We literally recorded into a handheld tape recorder with a beat playing in the background. I was probably 12 years old or 13 years old. I’ve made a bunch of shitty music since, and I’m actually making music now that I’m excited about.
I loved hip hop as a kid and I sort of found punk, hardcore in my late teens. I still love music. Making music to me, I don’t love it like I used to. It was one of my first loves, making music, but I don’t love it like I used to.
For some of my friends around me, music is their passion. That’s their #1 thing. They’re the music guys, I’m more the fighting guy. I still find producers I like, I’ll buy beats, I’ll organize studio sessions, and my friends come in and we try to out do each other on our songs. It’s a fun thing. It’s still fine. It’s a pastime. For some of them around me, music is their whole life. It’s just something I enjoy, it’s an outlet. I don’t try to overthink music. I just try to have fun.
They’re all definitely tied together, but I’m not trying to do some corny shit and rap about fighting. My hip hop is hip hop. If you listen to me rap, I can rap my ass off. Most athletes who make music is terrible, but I can rap with guys who all they do is rap.
I can put a verse on a song and it will sound good. That’s an important thing to me. This shit is not a gimmick. I’m an actual musician, I can rap, I do vocals for punk bands. I want to be good at everything I do.
There’s not too many things I give a shit about, but what I do give a shit about- I want to be good at it. I don’t want to be a fighter who raps. When I’m rapping, I’m really making good hip hop that you can put on and enjoy. When I’m fighting, I’m not trying to be a cool rapper who is fighting. Each of those things are their own entity.
What’s the worst-case scenario, I make a song that people don’t like? Who the fuck cares? I’m not getting knocked out in front of my grandma and my mom, millions of people watching at home and thousands of people watching in person.
If I make a bad song, they’re not going to make a meme about me getting knocked out. The consequences are not there. Fighting is not a joke. Fighting is my entire life. Music is just fun. It’s like skating. I love going skating, but I’m a terrible fucking skateboarder. I love everything about it, but I’m terrible at it and who cares.
I can go out and suck at skateboarding and no one is going to knock me out and try to take my livelihood. When I do other things, it’s a break from all of that.
The Point of Fighting Is to Win
The point of skating to try and do something new maybe or learn something maybe or just having fun. The point of making music is just to make something fun with my friends and to promote our O&U brand.
The point of making shirts to promote our group and to make something that people want to wear. It’s fun. I’m enjoying all of that. Fighting is the real work. I enjoy fighting, but that’s my livelihood. The other shit is just fun.
A lot of music I make comes from a certain pain when things aren’t going the right way. A lot of art comes from discontent, from pain, from a negative place. I feel like when things are going great it’s fuel to make positive art, for sure, but when things are going wrong it’s really great fuel for creativity.
I think most great works of art have been made from people who are unhappy. I’m much happier with a two fight win streak. Don’t get me wrong. All I’m going to do is keep winning fights. That’s all I give a shit about. I think when I lost a fight, I still write music and still write poetry or express myself in an artistic way because there’s art in pain.
It’s all coming along organically and it’s exciting and it’s still going. We’ve all been close since maybe ’03, we were all 8th grade kids and we’ve stuck together. The brand itself, it’s been around since 2015.
To check out O&U’s clothes, go to Outcast Underdogs or follow them on Instagram @Outcasts_Underdogs. For Fili’s music, head over to touchyfili bandcamp . And, of course, one should give the man @touchyfili a follow on Instagram as - no matter what is happening in his life - Fili is always busy expressing himself and encourages others to do so as well.