Matt Speciale is a professional MMA fighter and nutritionist operating out of Scarborough, Ontario. Ever since the lockdown began, it’s safe to say that eating healthy hasn’t necessarily been on everyone’s mind. We sat down to talk with Matt over Zoom to see how his nutrition business, Bearded Bites, has been affected during the pandemic.
What Is Bearded Bites, and why did you start it?
I started Bearded Bites a year and a half ago; it’s a sports nutrition company. It began as weight cutting and rehydration for combat sports athletes. Later I started trickling over into the general population, and now they are the bulk of my clients. Now fighters only come to me when it’s time for them to lose weight for their fights. Fighters also don’t make much, so I now make most of my money working with the general population.
It started with me researching nutrition after a post-match injury at my coach’s recommendation since I had all this free time while I was healing, and I dove right into it. I came up with the idea for the name quickly because my fight brand was built around beards. So, I came up with the title in like two minutes of just thinking about eating, and the word bite came to mind and then the word beard. From there, I knew that was the name.
Who is your primary clientele/demographic?
“age-wise, I’m in the ballpark of around 25 to 40 years old for the majority of my clients. When it comes to gender, we have 70% males and 30% females. I’m starting to get more women as a part of my clients, however. More women have been coming since I started the female-focused braided bites part of the brand, and I switched up the logo to make it more of a general label to reach out to a larger audience.
At first, it was just about weight cutting for fighters. The first two clients I had were my brother and my sister, and I helped them for free. I started with this mindset to help people; you have to help the people close to you first. So, I started with my family, and then I helped some of my friends, and later their friends asked me, and then those friends’ friends started to come to me. It all came from the before and after photos with my siblings and their success stories.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
All honesty, hiring a nutritionist isn’t an essential need for most people. Most people are going to sit there and say I’m not making that much money and I’m not spending that extra money on, willing me to eat healthily. That’s an additional cost that they don’t want, and it’s understandable, and I knew that was going to happen.
It’s tough because people like the idea of being healthy, but during this time, it’s hard to do. People are sitting at home all day and not doing any exercise, getting bored, and during this time, they’re going to eat or drink, and if they drink, they’re going to eat. I saw a significant spike in the summer and then post-summer, I witnessed a drop, and I just thought this isn’t good, and I knew it would be tough.
How has the pandemic forced you to adapt?
I started to do a lot more online, a lot more marketing campaigns, many more Facebook ads, and Instagram ads. I begin to throw a lot more information out there for free because I wanted to stay in people’s faces. I was posting 3 to 4 posts a week and a story every day. I was always putting out information about calorie content and meals.
I found that I got more people in, and people DMed me more, and I got more reactions. I also always encourage people to DM me with any questions they might have, and I try to put that information out there. I was willing to stay out there because what else am I going to do at that point? I can’t sit back and charge people for the information.
What Are Your Hopes For The Future?
I want to get almost every high-level Canadian MMA fighter working with me. I want to get a good 10 to 15 Canadian pro fighters under my brand. I want to help them with their fight camps and with their weight cuts and even during their off-seasons. I’ve been trying to explain to fighters that many fighters gain a massive amount of weight outside of fight prep. Many fighters don’t eat during fight prep because they are trying to lose as much weight as possible, and that’s very bad.”
Other than that, I would love the gyms to reopen and hope everything gets normal. The other half of my job is competing and since the gyms are closed, I can’t do that so I hope to get back to that soon. I also hope to move up my Canadian rankings, which I’m doing pretty well in. I’m even willing to compete during the pandemic if it’s possible. All in all, I would love to help people live a healthier lifestyle.
Bearded Bites currently has over 3,000 followers on Instagram and is now growing. The nutrition industry was hit pretty hard during the pandemic but did see somewhat of an increase in the summer months. Gyms, including MMA gyms, have also taken a big hit during the pandemic, being forced to close during the lockdown. Gyms were allowed to open during the warmer months with restrictions in place and were found not to cause significant spread. Due to the rise in cases during the fall and winter, they have been forced to close again.
For more information on Bearded Bites: