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An MMA Independent Interview with Founder and CEO Delano Romero

1.Delano, what's your background professionally and your area of concentration as a fighter?

I have over 22 years of retail, and sales marketing experience. 

I am not sure I would call myself a fighter, but I have have been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner for about 6 years, and I am currently a purple belt at Pit Bull Jiu-Jitsu under Professor Kalo Lopez here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Over the years I have had the pleasure of training No-Gi, Kickboxing and MMA,  with the likes of Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn and Chris Lutrell.     

2. The website mentions that due to suffering a mouth injury yourself while sparring, you decided to learn how to make a better mouthpiece. How did you connect with (dentist) Vesna Delic and the chemists at Sandia National to begin work on this project?

 When I first started training BJJ I had bought the cheapest mouth guard I could find at my local fight shop for around $10. However, I would never wear it because it was big, bulky and it would obstruct my breathing. I reasoned that I would rather not wear the mouthguard if it was that much of a distraction to my training.  Even though my wife was a dentist, I had no clue there were better alternatives like custom mouth guards that existed.  On one occasion while training at my BJJ academy, my chin collided with my rolling partner’s head causing my two upper front teeth to fracture.  My wife, Vesna Delic DDS, fixed my teeth, and asked me why I was not wearing my mouth guard.  After giving here my reasons, she thought I would do better with a custom fitted mouth guard.  After I got my custom mouth guard, I was blown away on how well it fit.  I could talk with it, I could drink water with it, and I could breathe much better with it, and it was the best fitting most comfortable mouth guard I have every worn.  It was a night and day difference from what I had with all my previous mouth guards.  Soon thereafter I would discover through some dental literature the superior protective benefits custom mouth guards had over standard boil and bite mouth guards. I then became a huge advocate of custom mouth guards, and, basically, would not shut up about mine. 

 

Gym members then started asking me how much my wife would charge to have a custom mouth guard made for them. I believe her prices, at the time, were somewhere around $350-$500, which seemed to be out of the price range of many I talked with. This is what sparked the idea to start Damage Control. I really wanted everyone who participated in sports to experience the benefits of a custom mouth guard, but at a more affordable price. With the help from my wife, and her dental assistances, and later some lab courses I took, I learned how to manufacture custom mouth guards myself.

 

The issue I was having, however, was determining how thick to make them for MMA fighters since Albuquerque has a huge community of Boxers and MMA athletes, a demographic to whom I initially started selling my mouth guards.  Also, there were so many materials available, and I wanted to know what the most shock absorbent material available was to use for a mouth guard.  Every dentist I talked to, and every journal I had read, up to that point, did not have an answer for me.  I was talking to a friend of mine who is a Mechanical Engineering at Sandia National Laboratories about my dilemma, and he suggested I apply for a state sponsored program that connects New Mexico small businesses with engineers at Sandia National Laboratories to help solve problems, and help answer questions like the ones I had.  I applied for the program and qualified.  That is how we got connected with chemist Dr. Jim McElhanon to help answer these questions, and create some sort of standard for custom mouth guard fabrication as there is currently not any standards in the US. 

3. Why do you think other companies claim that mouthpieces enhance a fighter's overall performance, instead of just saying they protect your teeth?

 First of all, there is not a single ounce of evidence that any mouth guard adds any performance enhancing benefits.   As there is no proof that mouth guards prevent concussions.  Read my blog: Mouth guards Have Become the New Snake Oil for my critique on this.  I would say, for companies that make custom mouthguards and claim performance enhancement, it is because they have nothing else going for them.  The bottom line is they are nothing more than a company that sells custom mouth guards, and they have to somehow justify the exorbitant prices they are charging for their mouthguards. (I know one company that sells them for $1,000!) Whereas you have companies like mine that have disrupted the market by making custom mouth guards available at a very affordable price, without having to visit a dentist.  They also lack many years of education, research, and kick ass custom designs to boot, so they have to conjure up something that distinguishes them. Further these mouth guard companies have no science or technology built into their mouth guard like Damage Control does with their proprietary material Damprotech™ and HXC (releasing soon), so they have to invent one. 

4.Here's a bigger question than just gear. In your experience, what are some things that you feel fighters should be doing more of to protect the investment in their bodies, in and outside of the ring?  

 I am in the business of teeth preservation, and I have been for the last 10 years with my company and my wife’s dental practice.  Because of my initial oral injury it has come to the point where my dentist has to put new fillings on my two front teeth about twice a year, for they constantly come off when I accidentally bite down on something hard like a pita chip.  It has gotten to the point where my dentist is now encouraging me to get crowns or veneers to remedy the issue. Good thing I’m sleeping with my dentist because I will get all my dental work done for free!  I can only imagine how much this injury would have cost me otherwise.  Therefore, in the ring I would encourage all fighters wear a Damage Control Mouthguard!  Outside of the ring, with the risk of sounding like your dental hygienist or dentist, brush your teeth twice a day and floss every day. Your teeth can fall out, not only from having improper protection while fighting, but they also can fall out from a nasty disease called periodontal disease. Brushing, flossing and getting your teeth cleaned professionally twice a year can help prevent that. Also, periodontal disease makes your breath stink, and who wants that?

5.What's next for DC Mouthguards? 

DC Mouthguards has just launched a new set of boil and bite designs.  The designs are now available at dcmouthguards.com.   Also, DC is currently in the process of introducing a new type of custom mouth guard.  This new custom mouth guard will offer more protection to your teeth, and fit even tighter than the custom mouth guards now offer.  It will be thinner and more protective than anything our competitors here in the US are doing.  We are pretty stoked about it!



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