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A PLACE TO GET FIGHT GEAR

Nick Rebetti had to turn to the Internet when he needed clothing and gear for his mixed martial arts training.

Most of the time, the clothing didn't fit and had to be returned. Others training in the sport shared his frustration. A local store was needed, they said.

Rebetti, 29, and his good friend Louis Gomes, 35, decided to take the leap and start a business aimed mainly at fighters but also at fans.

Conflict Fightgear opened about three months ago in a 1,500-square-foot store in Largo. It specializes in equipment and clothing for mixed martial arts, a full contact combat sport in which a wide variety of fighting techniques are used. The store also carries gear for boxing and other striking (tae kwon do, karate, etc.) and grappling (Brazilian jujitsu, judo, wrestling, etc.) sports.

Is Conflict Fightgear the first store of its kind in the Tampa Bay area?

"We're the first to specialize in everything for the mixed martial arts. A store that opened in Tampa after us is more into fan gear. We have the largest selection of equipment for all the combat sports," said Rebetti of Largo.

What are some examples of your inventory?

We have gloves, shin guards, elbow and knee protectors for all the different fighting styles," Rebetti said. "When it comes to uniforms and clothing, the fabric is different for each fighting style as well. For example, the fabric used for throwing and grappling is stronger than that for karate."

How are people finding you?

"We've done some advertising, but it's really word of mouth," said Gomes of Palm Harbor.

Who are your customers?

"Everyone is here for a different reason," Rebetti said. "We have law enforcement officers, men and women who just want to get in better shape, young men starting out who want to fight professionally, soccer moms who want to be able to stick up for their kids and those who like the excitement of getting hit or hitting somebody."

What did it cost to open the doors?

"It was pretty much a bare room," Rebetti said. "We put in the flooring, built some walls and painted." The inventory took an investment of $60,000, he said.

Was this a good business venture?

"The market is getting bigger here for the whole sport of mixed martial arts," Rebetti said. "It's a very tight-knit community, that was the biggest selling point for me wanting to get involved in it."

"It's a lot of hours and a lot of hard work, but I think we're ahead of the curve," Gomes said. "We've really been blessed."

Fast facts

Conflict Fightgear

Where: in the 66th Street Plaza at 6585 126th Ave. N. - Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday

Call (727) 388-9882 or visit www.conflictfighter.com.

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