Packing a Powerful Punch

by APU Life

Guillotine, hammerfist, and arm bar. These terms may sound like medieval torture techniques to some, but for Branden Ware ’04, founder of West Coast Fighting Championship (WFC), a mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion organization, they mean big business. A full-contact sport combining different fighting styles like karate, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Muaythai, and Brazilian jujitsu, MMA is among the fastest-growing sports in the world. Armed with a keen business sense and surrounded by a few close friends, Ware contributes significantly to its rapid ascent.

“In baseball terms, the WFC is like the Triple A for our fighters,” said Ware, who has worked with former APU football teammates James Irvin, an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran, and Orlando Sanchez, a current undefeated WFC fighter. “We strive to be the stepping-stone that catapults these fighters into our sport’s big leagues.”

In just three short years, WFC has sent more than 50 fighters to compete in the top MMA octagons of the UFC, Bellator, and World Series of Fighting, and recently orchestrated one of the most-coveted coups in the industry—a pay-per-view television deal. Between garnering national attention from the industry’s top media outlets and drawing personal interest from UFC president Dana White, WFC puts a chokehold on the competition.

From an early age, Ware sought inspiration for his business endeavors from his entrepreneurial father, owner of Bay and Delta Tug Boats—one of the largest tug boat companies in San Francisco. He also credits his professors at APU with providing the right tools for him to become a successful business leader. “It’s always been difficult for me to take advice from people who don’t walk the walk, but they actually owned businesses themselves, and that was extremely impactful for me,” said Ware, who went from a college entrepreneur to launching a store franchise called West Coast Nutrition in 2005 and manufacturing several of his own brands such as Exclusive Pharmaceuticals, Transformation Labs, and 360 Nutrition. With the support of influential friends like National Football League quarterback Tom Brady, as well as other well-known athletes, his franchise has expanded throughout the U.S. and continues to thrive.

During his time at APU, Ware reflected on what it means to be a Christian man in today’s society, inspiring him to author his first book, Surrendering Soul (Holy Fire Publishing, 2004), about his spiritual growth, while still a student. He learned then the importance of a faith-based business. “You’d be surprised, when these guys are about to get locked in a cage with another guy, how open they are to praying,” said Ware. “Without the outlet that WFC affords, some of these guys might be in jail or worse. Instead, I’m able to talk with them about God.”

Ware’s biggest success has not been turning punches into a profit, but something even more powerful—finding a ministry in the precarious world of MMA.

Originally published in the Spring '16 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.