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MF User Spotlight #3: Interview With Customizer GreatGonzo

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The Third Edition of the MF User Spotlight Features the Diverse Customizer GreatGonzo and Picks His Brain on the Latest Subjects

Hello and welcome, fans and friends of MMAFigs.com, to this third edition of the MF User Spotlight.

As is the case with my previous two interviews, the MF User Spotlight is designed to highlight and interview the members of the MMAFigs.com Forums, most notably our loyal customizers.

Today’s customizer is GreatGonzo, who is best known for his diversity. While there’s nothing wrong with modifying the traditional WWE-based “Ruthless Aggression” and “Deluxe Aggression” style of action figure to represent MMA fighters, Gonzo has earned himself considerable praise for his posed customs and Round 5 customs. When asked to introduce himself to the MMAFigs.com readers, Gonzo had this to say.

“I've always enjoyed action figures, and also sports-related figures such as Starting Lineups. I collected wrestling and SLU figures growing up, among other toy lines, but these two were the ones I kept with the longest. My first brush with customizing came at a Starting Lineup Convention sometime in the late 90’s. A guy there had some custom football and baseball figures, and even a Richard Petty NASCAR figure (before NASCAR had a line).

From there I started repainting hockey SLU figures into Dallas Stars using Testors markers, White out, and some permanent Markers. Needless to say, they weren't the best. It wasn't until mid 2001 that a friend of mine introduced me to wrestling customs; he knew my interest in repainting SLU figures and I inquired what I needed to get started. After that I went in head-first, and didn't come out until mid to late 2003. I took a 5 year hiatus from customizing as other things in my life had taken priority. I got the itch to get back into it and have been back full-swing since January of 2008.”

Part One: Customizing Questions

PdW2kX of MMAFigs.com (MF): How difficult would you say it is to create a custom?

GreatGonzo (GG): Difficulty all depends on your level of abilities, as well as the type of figure you are making. The most difficult part to me is the fine detail in painting. Honestly, it's what you make of it. The more you put into it, the more you see in the results.

MF: You’ve accurately recreated the highly-detailed fight trunks of several UFC/MMA fighters. How difficult is it to squeeze in all those logos and all that text?

GG: For me that is one of the most difficult parts. Finding the room isn't that difficult, it’s making the logos look accurate on a small scale. Small detail painting is my weak link, sometimes it's not the greatest but I make it work. I could use decals and make them look more authentic, but I like challenges. I do the logos the way I do to challenge myself, and I find I get better and better each time.

MF: Take us through your process for creating a custom.

GG: I honestly spend about half the time on the custom looking at reference pictures. Once I know who and how I'm making the figure, I select the parts. If it’s a posed figure, I'll chop and modify parts to get the right pose, and then glue it all into place. If it’s a regular figure, I'll do some simple mods such as sanding down a nose, hair, facial hair, or even transplanting legs. From there I move on to sculpting.

Sculpting would be my strong point. Whether it is hair, shorts or feet, I tend to sculpt just about anything on the figures. I enjoy sculpting the most, and try to incorporate it as much as possible.

After that I move on to painting the figure, using some sealer on it, and taking pictures.

MF: You’ve created MMA customs utilizing several different styles of action figure: Ruthless Aggression, Deluxe Aggression, Round 5, and more. Which is the most difficult, and why? Which is your favorite, and why?

GG: Honestly, I’m comfortable making just about any figure type. I wouldn't call one more difficult than the others; it’s just that different body styles have different limitations. RA has the limitation of torsos looking realistic. DA is lacking overall body parts, though with either there's nothing that a little sanding and sculpting can't fix. With Round 5 it’s the lack of interchangeable parts. You can swap a head on a Round 5, but the neck line and other aspects of the sculpt may not line up and would need some modification. Same goes for arms and such.

If I had to choose one for “most difficult”, I would have to say the Build ‘N Brawl figure style. The primary reason on this is that the parts are so small. Facial modifications are limited due to size restraints, and painting detail is dumbed down immensely. I have yet to make a BNB MMA figure, but plan on doing so down the line. I would also like to make some more Round 5 Customs; it's just hard to spend $15-20 on a single figure just to customize it.

MF: What do you think sets you apart from other customizers?

GG: I feel I push the limits with most of my figures. I will go out on a limb and try a head that takes extensive modification to work. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. I am one of the few customizers that do posed customs. Any time I do a posed custom (actually in a pose) I try to do something unique given the parts and their own limitations.

Part 2: UFC Figure Line Questions

MF: Regarding this line, how avid of a collector do you intend to be?

GG: This line along with the Round 5 line has renewed my interest in collecting. I doubt I will delve very far into collecting, but I can see collecting some of my favorites out of each line. I mainly see myself buying some of the shelf warmers for customizing purposes. Maybe I’ll put people in their most recent fight attire, or maybe their most memorable fight attire.

MF: Based on what you’ve seen so far, do you trust Jakks Pacific with this license, or would other toy companies like NECA, Mattel, McFarlane Toys or Hasbro have done a better job?

GG: I've never really been a fan of Mattel's Marvel lines. They make some great figures, but they just haven't sparked any interest me. I am anxious to see how Mattel handles the WWE line. I can see that line going either way.

Hasbro would do a great job if they went back to a style much like the original WWF Hasbro line. Jakks has a good enough BNB line that Hasbro making more G.I. Joe-type UFC figures wouldn't really spark my interest.

As far as NECA or McFarlane, I'd love to see either take on some MMA. They would be a totally different line though. These would appeal more to collectors than anything. Neither company’s figures are really meant for play, and that would probably cause them to lose the younger crowd. Being a fan of posed figures, SLU, and Round 5, I'd love to see McFarlane try their hand especially.

Overall, I think Jakks has a great niche with the WWE line. Expanding to UFC was probably the best move they could have made with Mattel taking over WWE. UFC is on top of the world right now and only getting bigger and bigger. I think they are perfect for the job.

MF: The plan so far is for Jakks to include UFC Legends and WEC fighters as “chase” figures. Do you agree with this, or are separate Legends-only and/or WEC-only lines warranted?

GG: I think they need to test the waters with this. Somebody like me would really like to see a separate line for Legends, WEC, PRIDE, and UFC. However, they have a business to run; they will have to look at what figures seem in the best interest of their profits. For right now, I think they have a good idea, but I'm sure we'll see it expand into much more.

MF: Would it be a good or bad idea to include UFC personalities like Bruce Buffer, Joe Rogan, Mike Goldberg, the Octagon Girls, etc. in the main action figure line?

GG: I am very neutral on this one. I think ultimately they will end up as shelf warmers. The collectors will grab a few, and the pic fed people will grab the rest. Suits just do not fit much of my customizing needs.

MF: What figures are you anticipating the most?

GG: Out of the UFC line I am anticipating Forrest Griffin, Brock Lesnar, Kevin Randleman, Evan Tanner, and hopefully Randy Couture, Dan Severn, and Dan Henderson.

From Round 5 I am really looking forward to Fedor and Hendo. I really hope they are able to grab a few more UFC fighters since it's been said that Jakks and Round 5 will share fighters now. I wouldn't be upset if they released another Randy Couture with a more updated style, I didn't care for the head on the one they did previously.

UFC Questions

MF: How big of a UFC fan are you?

GG: I would have to place myself in the gray areas between Casual Fan, and Diehard Fan. I kept up with UFC from UFC 1 until around UFC 20 or so, when they stopped coming out on VHS. When the VHS and DVD's reemerged around UFC 40 I started watching again (since UFC wasn't shown on TV anywhere). I used to watch a lot of PRIDE when it would air on ESPN back in the day as well.

I lost interest in a lot of things between 2004-2007, as well as not having Cable or Satellite for 2 years. My only means of access was through the internet. I followed certain fighters and I would try to find a video online or the DVD at the video store.

Since the beginning of last year, I renewed my interest in MMA and Customizing both. Now I find myself watching UFC anytime it airs on spike, whether I've seen the fights or not. Generally on big events I will hit YouTube and find the fights in the following days. For a very select few I will order on PPV or go to a restaurant that is showing it. I check some of the more popular MMA sites for news and info, and seek whatever I can find.

MF: What’s your opinion on the entire scandal revolving around Affliction “Trilogy”?

GG: I had high hopes for Affliction, but I knew it was doomed from the start. The whole thing with Dana banning Affliction clothing was out of line in my opinion. I understand where Dana was coming from, and I understand where Affliction was coming from. I think ultimately neither one could come to terms with their egos or their pocketbooks.

I was really looking forward to the Fedor/Barnett fight. I was pulling for Barnett, though I think Fedor would have won. Being a big fan of both fighters, I was very disappointed. Vitor Belfort looked to have a very promising fight. Once that card was canceled I knew the organization was soon to follow. Hopefully Dana's big press conference for Friday is the signing of Tito, Vitor, and Fedor.

MF: If Tito Ortiz comes back to the UFC, can he hang with today’s Light Heavyweights?

GG: I honestly feel we will see a rejuvenated Tito. Before he left UFC, his head wasn't in the game. He was all about making public appearances, making movies, doing anything but fighting. Also from what I've read he had been dealing with quite a few injuries, primarily his back. With his body hopefully back up to 100%, along with his new attitude/interest in fighting, I think he will make a great comeback. Do I see him winning a title? Probably not, but I think he has a little bit of a Champ left in him.

MF: Georges St-Pierre going up against Anderson Silva has been a “dream match” for quite a while now. So far it hasn’t materialized. Let’s say it finally happens. Who wins?

GG: It is always a rough sketch when dealing with guys who dominate in different weight classes. In most cases, at least from my experience watching MMA and Boxing the last 20 years, the heavier guy usually prevails. Silva is a counter-striker; GSP has more of a ground-control style. If GSP could bypass Silva's stand up and control the ground game I think he would have a great chance of winning. If GSP loses ground control and goes to his back, I see Silva pulling the win.

MF: With Affliction gone, Strikeforce is now the #2 promotion in the USA by default. What should they do to stay afloat?

GG: I think it would be in their best interest to try and not compete with the UFC. What I mean by this is: do not spend the money and time to try and push their product as a competitor to the UFC. I think if they take the natural progression route, keep doing what they are doing currently, they will slowly gain a bigger following. All these companies that go full throttle and try to compete with the big boys usually fail. Look at PRIDE, Affliction, Elite XC, etc. All are promotions that pushed to be known, all are companies that failed. The key problem is spending too much money to make money. I am all about a company spending money to make money, but anyone with good business sense would realize that taking market share away from UFC is not going to happen. Companies like Strikeforce and DREAM are known to the MMA community. The mass market isn't ready for them yet. When it's time, they will know.

MF: Who’s your favorite fighter, and why?

GG: When it’s all said and done, Randy Couture. I remember seeing his first fight in the UFC on PPV. He just exhibited a sheer raw talent in the octagon. He went from being a wrestling coach to UFC Champion, and then continued to maintain his stride throughout. I come from an amateur wrestling background and generally I favor the amateur wrestlers over other fighters. Early on, guys like Severn, Couture, Coleman, and Frye were my favorites. Now it's still Couture, and also guys like Brock, Fedor, and Tito.

Closing Thoughts

MF: Any parting words?

GG: I'd like to say thank you to PdW2kX and MMAFigs.com for making this happen. I would also like to say “thank you” to any and all customizers who have helped me along the way.

Also, stay tuned for my upcoming figures. In the near future we will likely see a DA Wanderlei Silva and Rampage Jackson, along with a RA Dan Henderson, Matt Hughes and Liam McCarty (a Texas Fighter), and a remastered Posed Chuck Liddell. You can also check out my official website here.

PdW2kX and MMAFigs.com would like to thank GreatGonzo and all the other members of the MF User Spotlight for agreeing to their interviews and turning them into something memorable. We would also like to take this time and thank the readers of MMAFigs.com, who have made the MF User Spotlight such an early success. And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for…the customs gallery!


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Subscribe to comments feed Comments (1 posted):

Kai Barnes on 08/19/2009 19:04:35
I would like to see UFC personalities like Bruce Buffer, Ufc girls, Rogan and Goldberg in the UFC jakks toy line.
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