By Jordan Newmark | 6 March 2021
Feed Me Fight Me is all about the Mission.
For John Watkins and Brian Eayrs, who became friends while serving in the US Marine CORPS, their burgeoning business’ mission is a pincer attack: create high-quality sports apparel they believe in and pay it forward to their fellow veterans.
“We’re about food, family, fun, fitness, and we’re also into work,” affirms Watkins. “If you’re doing a light roll with your buddy or if you’re in fight camp, we cater to both. We’ve got the fun print, and we’ve got the sleek ‘high-speed, low-drag’ apparel for when it’s time to get down to business.
That’s how the military was for us. Play hard, work hard. We’ve not only carried that over into Feed Me Fight Me, but we’ve carried that over into each additional outlet that we’re in.”
Veteran Owned and Operated
Feed Me Fight Me’s mouthpiece is former Staff Sergeant John Watkins. He exudes that Oorah energy. Watkins shoots off stories from the CORPS to professional powerlifting to becoming a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player quicker than the machine guns he manned on CH-53 helicopters.
It’s partly because Watkins is a born and bred New Yorker. It’s also partly because Watkins is a truly passionate person whose enthusiasm for his family, for his community, for his company is second to none. A company that started nearly a decade ago with Eayrs making t-shirts in his kitchen.
“One of my roommates in the Marine CORPS got out started physical therapy school and became a physical therapist assistant – in tandem just as a hobby, he went onto Craig’s list and bought a silkscreen press,” remembers Watkins. “He would literally be screenprinting in his kitchen and then drying and curing it in his oven. Not the best practice. He then sent me a shirt that said ‘Feed Me Fight Me.’ I started building up in the ranks in powerlifting at the time in Hawaii, which was where I was stationed at the time after San Diego.”
For a little guy, I’m 5’5, and I was competing at the 148 weight class at the time - I move a lot of weight. So I turned some heads, and they see what I’m wearing, and they were like, ‘Hey, it’s kind of a cool shirt- where did you get it?’”
They weren’t an overnight sensation, but with Watkins as their muscular billboard coupled with his raw, infectious attitude, they started selling shirts. They sold to the athletic communities they were a part of powerlifting and crossfit.
Eventually, they found the success to make it their full-time pursuit with their new headquarters in Portland, Oregon. To this day, lifting and crossfit are a major focus of their collections.
“The weightlifting side, we wanted material where if you put on the correct size knee-sleeve for powerlifting that something that small would slide up the leg without getting a workout in before you start your workout,” says Watkins. “We found the material for the knee sleeves to slide right up for powerlifting and crossfit. That was a huge factor. Second, we wanted it ‘squat proof.’
We don’t want you wearing a pair of solid leggings, and when you squat, you can now see you have hearts on your underwear.”
The Personal Mission Defined
Over the following two to three years, they experienced positives personally and professionally. At odds with that, Watkins and Eayrs were also experiencing first-hand the grim reality fellow veterans faced transitioning into civilian life. “I need more fingers and toes to count how many friends I’ve lost to drug addiction, homelessness, and suicide,” reveals Watkins. He is candid with what he has seen and felt from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the jarring adjustment to life outside the military.
It was both a culmination of loss and the loss of one particular friend that made it clear they needed to team up with an organization that knew more than them, and they found Northwest Battle Buddies.
Service Dogs for Those Who Served
“With that final event happening, that was number 14 or 15 of our friends that have actually done that, and that’s when we looked into Northwest Battle Buddies,” explains Watkins. “I had heard something about service dogs, but I didn’t know much about them at the time. It turns out Northwest Battle Buddies is in the top 1% tier of non-profits; they’re rated platinum, all of the money is going in the right places. And it was close to where we live, and we drove up there, and we got to experience it.
Man, what a feeling getting to interact with veterans that have gone through what you’ve gone through and find a neutral ground and somewhat relaxation even though the stories you’re telling are violent and ugly and adrenaline-filled. "You just find the comfort being among other veterans. We knew that this was where we wanted to put our money.”
Northwest Battle Buddies is a non-profit providing service dogs to veterans with PTSD. The president and founder, Shannon Walker, is a world-renowned dog trainer. They offer a multi-week training session between the veteran and dog, including flight and accommodations. And, it’s no cost to the veteran. It is available for them for life if/when in need of a service dog.
A New Bond Through BJJ
It’s a hands-on, tangible, and rewarding resource for veterans with PTSD, which was something Watkins, admittedly, needed as well. The former US Marine CORPS martial arts instructor found solace, patience, and hope by stepping onto the Jiu-Jitsu mats.
“It’s embarrassing to say, but the word does need to get out there that they know they’re not alone- I was suicidal,” states Watkins. “If I didn’t have my business partner Brian there to recommend me going into Jiu-Jitsu, I can’t say that I’d be on the phone with you right now.
The first class I went into, I was a powerlifter. You resort to strength; you bring the storm that the guy on bottoms weathers and then takes you over.
Just being able to exert that energy, and I’ll admit I brought anger to the mat, initially- it was so therapeutic.
I found a piece of what I had in the Marine CORPS again. This taught me to slow down and think, be strategic, don’t be wild. Jiu-jitsu gave me community, discipline, and hope. And hope, that’s something that a lot of people coming out of the military don’t have. You lose hope for yourself because there is no longer a mission that’s put in front of you.”
It was Eayrs’ suggestion to try BJJ, which was followed by UFC vet and Feed Me Fight Me sponsored fighter Mickey Gall and his sister/manager Jamie’s recommendation of Gracie Barra in Portland. Watkins found a new passion and community as the lifelong Octagon fan began rubbing elbows with Chael Sonnen, Paige VanZant, Austin Vanderford, Ed Herman, to name a few.
New Communities Mean New Gear
Like with powerlifting, Watkins became the Feed Me Fight Me billboard when rolling in no-gi classes. People were attracted to both his shirts and, no doubt, his personality. The same must be said for Eayrs - the leaner, lankier of the two - fitting in perfectly at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu Portland.
“I would bring some stuff for people to try out, and that’s when we opened the door to Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, MMA - that network just blew up with us,” tells Watkins. “For Jiu-Jitsu, we wanted drawstrings, so your butt doesn’t fall out. We have drawstrings that sit above the hipbone, so if anything gets pulled or snagged, the person wearing them has the security that they’re not see-through and they’re not coming down during a grappling bout.
Also, we considered body composition. Your average person isn’t a stage-ready bodybuilder or anything. We wanted to figure out leggings that wouldn’t cut into a woman’s hips or lower stomach or anything.
We started creating mid-to-high rise apparel, so you don’t get that real elastic line indent around your waist or anything, and you can actually perform in comfort and not have to deal with that constraint. Also, we wanted to find that slick performance material, so you can slide your ankle up to your calf and lock it behind your knee.”
Give More Than You Get
From the Marines to powerlifting to Feed Me Fight Me to Northwest Battle Buddies to BJJ, it cannot be overstated how much Watkins has given to these passions of his. And, he’s the first to express how much more they’ve given back.
In their most trying time, Watkins and his wife found out their young son had cancer, and it was friends through BJJ like VanZant and Vanderford who rushed to help as they could. Watkins has been supported by these communities through fundraiser tournaments and just being there day-to-day, and that’s why it’s Feed Me Fight Me’s mission to pay it forward.
“What’s next - big picture, philanthropy,” answers Watkins. “We want to help out other start-ups that don’t have the help that we did.
Use our mistakes that we paid a pretty penny for, we may not be able to tell you what to do, but we could tell you what not to do and what worked for us. Of course, the brand has to grow more.
Collaborating with other like-minded people with the same mission-driven ethos as us- we want to tap into that. We’re military-driven and taught, and we’re taking that into the civilian community and still having that veteran mentality and helping veterans.”
To check out everything Feed Me Fight Me, go to their shop and follow them on Instagram. For a direct look at their partnered non-profit Northwest Battle Buddies, head to their website. They also want to thank and mention their respective BJJ studios, 10th Planet Portland and American Top Team in Portland.
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