Mixed Martial Arts is quickly becoming one of the world’s fastest sports, and different disciplines are taking the forefront across America, catering to customers as individual markets evolve. Well, niche businesses like clothing companies aren’t far behind, and Philadelphia-based MMA outfitter Jesus Didn’t Tap is targeting a very specific group: Bible thumpers … or bible beaters … or holy warriors. Oh, whatever. Pick your own religious pun.
Jesus Didn’t Tap markets a full crop of some 20-odd t-shirts (they do both performance and loose wear) for men and a few odd items like shorts, hats and sweatshirts. All of them are adorned with brash biblical messages, ranging from the mundane — “Blood, Sweat and Prayers” — to the overt — “How Do You Train,” with a picture of Jesus hauling his own cross.
Regardless of the religious fervor incorporated in the message all of the shirts transmit a cruel undercurrent of sincere irony: How can a company revolving around the popularity of the world’s most gruesome fighting sport base in message in the symbolism and idolatry of history’s greatest pacifist?
In truth, it can’t. That’s precisely why Jesus Didn’t Tap may try and focus as much parallel imagery on the transportation of the cross and it’s nominal inspiration’s willing ascension to death as an inspiration message. That would seem like a good idea if we weren’t talking about a sport where death is a real possibility. MMA fights bring the perennial possibility of serious brain injury or, in a worst-case scenario, death. Clearly, literal symolism wasn’t the best choice.
In fairness, Jesus Didn’t Tap was founded to try and promote a noble cause. Ten percent of the brand’s profits go to a church, and the brand’s owner plans to open a Jiu Jitsu training center of the same name in Philadelphia soon.
The story behind the brand is also an inspiring one. The owner’s daughter, Kenzie, was diagnosed with Moebius Syndrome (a rare neurological disorder) early in her life and was given a bleak prognosis. Despite long odds, she made it to age two, when her parents started training her in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, adorning Kenzie with a shirt that said “Jesus Didn’t Tap” on the front and “Kenzie Doesn’t Quit” on the back.
Touching personal stories aside, the concept of a religiously-inspired and focused fighting company stretches just beyond the line of awkward into “how is this not inherently contradictory” territory. Of course, that doesn’t seem to be slowing sales, so get ready to see someone in “Jesus Doesn’t Tap” trunks inside the octagon sooner rather than later.