The Godfather of Freestyle Motocross Mike Metzger talks about everything from his new MOB Syndicate team to his aspirations to give Blake "Bilko" Williams a run for his money in X Games Freestlye.
I've been fortunate enough to know Mike Metzger for over ten years and throughout the years, "The Godfather" has always been nothing but supportive and cool to me. Back when I was at the height of my riding career, Metz started a team including Dustin Miller, Drake McElroy, Jimmy McGuire and myself. He got us hooked up with custom graphics, gave us proper exposure throughout ads and videos and he gave us a place to ride. Metz was the man and because we were young and fresh to the FMX thing, just having the chance to hang out with Metz was an honor in itself.
In the following years Metz did the FMX thing, winning X Games gold in 2002 (the year he did the back-to-back backflips) and then branching out to Supermoto racing, truck racing, clothing, art and web ventures. Now, wiser than ever ever, Metz has gone full circle and is back at square one with his new team and clothing line, The MOB Syndicate. As always, Metz doesn't pay top riders to wear his name -- he finds new, emerging talent and takes them under his wing in an effort to boost their budding FMX careers. Remember Jeremy Lusk (RIP)? Well, Metz was the first to take notice of him and launch his career into orbit -- eventually losing him to the Metal Mulisha.
Since Metz has been back in the limelight riding the US FMX Jagermeister demos at every round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series, I've been wanting to sit down with him and pick his brain about all that's been going on his hectic, but never dull life. Metz agreed to an interview and proceeded to talk my ear off about everything from MOB Syndicate vs. Metal Mulisha, to his aspirations to give Blake "Bilko" Williams a run for his money in X Games Freestyle and Todd Potter in Biggest Whip.
It's been a little while. I thought you didn't like me anymore! [laughs]
[laughs] No way dude, I'll always love you! So what's going on?
I actually just got down to ASR to show off my new MOB line of clothes to certain buyers. I got a deal with all the No Fear stores, so I'm pretty pumped on that and I've got a lot of feedback from people telling me that I'm doing good as far as being on top of the internet marketing like facebook and Twitter -- letting everyone know what's going on. I've been figuring out how to get some money together for print advertising in the magazines, but everyone I talk to tells me that guerilla internet marketing is the way to go. But yeah, I'm just staying on top of business lately. I want to get this MOB stuff out there and blow it up so I can build a company and pay riders.
I don't really have time to sit around and draw anymore. I don't sit around and get high anymore and I can't do artwork unless I'm stoned out of my mind -- I haven't been stoned in months.
-- Mike Metzger
I come up with the ideas and then I've got about four different graphic designers that are doing everything for me as far as computer stuff goes. I don't really have time to sit around and draw anymore. I don't sit around and get high anymore and I can't do artwork unless I'm stoned out of my mind -- I haven't been stoned in months. The most important thing right now is riding with my team riders, keeping my riders satisfied by getting them graphic kits and getting them posters. I want them to know that I'm serious about building this company into something.
You know, stuff in the past hasn't worked -- like I tried to do that Factory Freestyle team with Jeremy Lusk and Wiley Fulmer and unfortunately I broke my back and everything fell apart and Monster Energy didn't have my back anymore. But right now everything's going good. It's a new beginning and I own my companies outright without any partners. I've got two websites being built right now, the MOB Syndicate site and then the Metzger Unlimited site, which will turn into more of a newsy site with blogs about what's going on in FMX. The MOB Syndicate site will be more of the team guys and a store.
No. See that's something my past partner did on his own. I never intended the Metzger Unlimited site to be an e-commerce site selling everyone's s--t. I went to Idaho and then all of a sudden a month goes by -- because I wasn't really paying attention to the website or email and whatever -- but all of a sudden, I pulled up my site and I saw that we were selling Metal Mulisha, Hostility, FMF and so on. So I moved back down to Southern California and I started getting more involved in the business and picking Brandon's [partner at the time] brain about what was going on and what wasn't being done and I found out that things just weren't happening the right way. Metzger Unlimited could have been really cool as far as an e-commerce site, but it wasn't being done right and we were losing a lot of money. It was crazy because like a week after we parted ways, my partner shut down my website completely -- he disintegrated it. He pulled my entire $5,000 website apart. The backside administration with everyone's credit card orders, everyone's email addresses got completely wiped out.
I saw that someone made everything $1.95 on your site after you posted up the press release about the split. What's up with that?
[laughs] Dude, you know how many orders came through because of that? The day I found out, my wife and I were on our tenth anniversary. So I'm sitting there at the table and I'm looking at these orders and I see like a $50 order and one of the shirts was called "Dick in the Box," so I knew somebody was messing with me." Then I looked closer at the order and I'm like "Whoa, everything's $1.95!" And so I called my hosting guys and I was like "Dude, you gotta shut down my website, somebody's messing with me." It ended up turning into a big deal because then I had to process the orders. I had to go buy DEFT gloves and Shui t-shirts at cost and then sell it for $1.95 to keep everyone happy.
It would be awesome to be in shape and know that I could possibly go out there and compete with Bilko in X Games Freestlye in a few years. I know I can do it, it's just a matter of staying healthy and being there at the right time.
-- Mike Metzger
Yeah, I didn't want to piss anyone off. Even today, I had to send an order out to a dude that had ordered a Mulisha hat and Metzger t-shirt on a credit card and it never got sent out -- and it's been like three months! When that administration part of my website got wiped out, all of the orders waiting to be fulfilled disappeared. So, all of a sudden people were getting a hold of me, because I have the 1-800 number directed to my cell phone and all the email addresses directed to my personal email. And so I started getting all these phone calls and emails -- like a couple hundred a day -- so I had to get back to these people and find out what happened, what exactly was charged on their credit card.
I basically had to refund a bunch of people money and then I've been sending people a bunch of Metzger product on my own dime to keep them happy. I've been sending each person a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a hat, a belt and a pair of socks. And so that's what I've been doing to let everyone know that I'm not a bad guy and even though Metzger Unlimited is my name, I definitely didn't mean to jack anyone's credit cards. I'll admit I'm a bit amateur at this whole business thing, but I'm learning from my mistakes. But from now on, Impact Distribution is handling everything and I'm just going to stick to what I do best -- riding my dirt bike.
Yeah dude, I just got to go with Jay Schweitzer, "On the Pipe Jay." He actually invited me out to Arizona this past week. I had planned on going out to Ocotillo and all of a sudden Jay called me and invited me to go out to Cameron, Arizona for a film shoot -- and that was well worth the trip dude! It was like two and a half hours north of Phoenix and I'm telling you, just in our little area where we first rode, we found four third gear wide open kickers that were more fun than any jump I've ever hit at Ocotillo Wells.
Is Cameron still fresh and not worn out and rutted out like Ocotillo?
Dude, miles and miles of stuff that's never been ridden. You can't even hit it all in one day. By the time the first day was over, I was so worn out and burnt and we found some seriously cool stuff. I hit a 120-footer that no one else hit except that Libor Podmol kid from Czech Republic -- he hit it a couple times and he was over it -- but I sessioned the thing and we got some pretty sick shots. Then after that I rode the Speedworld FMX park in Phoenix with Jim McNeil, Libor Podmol, Robbie Adelberg, Thomas Alves and a handful of other AZ locals.
That's crazy. Why were all those guys in Arizona?
Well, a bunch of Europeans came out to do that Red Bull Ranking Session, but it ended up getting cancelled. Supposedly there were 26 riders that were going to try and qualify for the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour and then it got cancelled so all the Europeans are in town like "Well, what are we going to do now?"
I love riding bikes! It's just hard to have fun when you're in pain. I'm definitely blessed that I'm healthy now and not in any pain. I can kickstart my bike and my knees don't feel like their going to fall off. So, yeah I'm healthy and I'm staying in shape. I have a beautiful family and everything's great.
In the recent photos I've seen of you, you look like you're riding like you did back in your peak. Are you pushing yourself to learn any new tricks or are you just keeping it mellow?
Yeah, I'm trying to push myself, but I'm just taking baby steps. I know that I really need to be confident to go to that next level of freestyle riding. I need a foam pit or need to be close to a foam pit. I know I have the skills, but at the same time I'm trying to be smarter than I was in the past -- I don't have anything to prove. Although I'd love to get out there and ride Biggest Whip at X Games 16 -- I think I have a good chance at doing that. I want to go out there and see what the fans have to say between Todd Potter and The Godfather -- see who can lay down the meanest whip. I think I have a good chance at taking gold again. Let alone it would be awesome to be in shape and know that I could possibly go out there and compete with Bilko in X Games Freestlye in a few years. I know I can do it, it's just a matter of staying healthy and being there at the right time.
That would be HUGE to see you back out there competing! I'd be so pumped.
After winning X Games in 2002, my goals weren't to continue to go out there and win X Games medals anymore. My goals were to race trucks, Supermoto, Supercross and outdoor nationals. I got to do all that, I've accomplished my biggest goal of all, and that's to have a family. Since I've done everything I wanted to do, it's now easier for me to concentrate on business and riding again. I've done everything I wanted to do and now I'm back to square one.
If there's one thing I've learned throughout it all -- some words of wisdom -- it's to be sober. I didn't have the same goals a couple years ago that I have now. I wanted to party and that's been the reason for being my wife and I being at each other's throats. I wanted to party and hang out with my buddies and not be sober -- now I look at life a lot different. Now my main goal is to run a successful business, blow up the MOB Syndicate team and get riders on the team that I know can go out there and win X Games and be the best. The bad asses of the sport are those guys who want to go out there and win gold medals and those are the guys I want on my team -- I'll do anything for them to help them accomplish their goals.
If there's one thing I've learned throughout it all -- some words of wisdom -- it's to be sober. I didn't have the same goals a couple years ago that I have now. I wanted to party and that's been the reason for being my wife and I being at each other's throats.
-- Mike Metzger
Well, prior to Thanksgiving, I broke both of my wrists at the US Open of Supercross. I had a little incident where I came up short because nobody wanted to jump the ramp, so I was like "Oh, I'll hit it!" I broke my wrists, went home and had surgery and I was laid up and really wanted to ride, but I couldn't and had nothing else to do so I started messing around on the computer. I learned about everything from Facebook to Twitter. Then I found out that people actually care how many followers you have on Twitter and I started reading about Tony Hawk and how he's a spokesperson for Twitter and that he's got over one million followers. Then I began to think "If Tony Hawk's got a million followers, why can't I?" It's crazy, it just all started becoming fun -- I finally got sucked in. I thought "Wow, this is cool -- mass marketing where I can let anybody know what I'm doing anytime of the day and uh ... I got sucked in. That's all I can say ... the computer sucked me in! [laughs]
It's really cool because I feel like I have a chance to really help the sport take off. I was talking to somebody yesterday about the opportunities god's given me in the past. And looking back when freestyle originated, I was the first guy to win a freestyle championship, an IFMA championship, the Vans Triple Crown in 1998 and 1999, I was actually the first guy to sign a contract with the IFMA saying that I'm the poster boy for freestyle motocross. It's crazy too because looking back it wasn't something that I thought would take off. My main goal back then was to be a supercross racer. Ever since being a little kid all I wanted to do is race supercross for Factory Honda like Ricky Johnson and Jean-Michelle Bayle. Now the main goal for me is taking freestyle motocross and business to entirely new level and watch the sport go bigger than it's ever gone.
Yup, as a matter of fact, we're breaking ground on the "FMX Godfather" freestyle park next week and it'll basically be a public park where anyone can ride as long as they go through a school taught by me. I'll basically see what type of riders they are -- it could be anyone from a mini bike rider up to an old man that wants to jump a ramp -- and once they pass the academy, I'll write them a certificate and they can purchase a monthly membership through Lake Elsinore Motocross. I definitely feel like there's room for a lot of different motocross tracks around the country to have a freestyle park, but they just have to have a proper way of going about it.
As far as any conflict between Mike Metzger and the Mulisha riders, there's no conflict. But when it comes to MOB Syndicate and Metal Mulisha and who's going to be winning X Games gold medals in the future, its direct conflict.
-- Mike Metzger
I don't have a problem with Mulisha -- I'll help those guys with whatever they want. I get to ride with Jimmy Fitzpatrick, you know. There's no conflict as far as me and them personally. I've known Linkogle and Deegan forever -- my son and Link's son actually ride dirt bikes together. So as far as any conflict between Mike Metzger and the Mulisha riders, there's no conflict. But when it comes to MOB Syndicate and Metal Mulisha and who's going to be winning X Games gold medals in the future, its direct conflict. That's what MOB Syndicate is -- it's a direct conflict with the Mulisha.
So it's like a competition conflict, not a personal conflict.
Exactly. We ride dirt bikes, we race dirt bikes and we go freestyle at X Games and competitions because we want to win. And that's my major goal with my business -- to eventually show myself that I can be just as good of a business guy as any other dude out there and at the same time have the best freestyle team in the world. So, I think I'm well on my way to making it work, but everything happens at the right time and we'll see how I play my cards in the long run.
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