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One of our primary goals with Establish the Run’s collectibles branch is to inform our users of alternative ways to bet on athletes and their situations in a variety of different sports. In this article, our Cody Main (@cmain7) and Ryan Reynolds (@RyanReynoldsNFL) discuss UFC fighter Khamzat Chimaev from a collectibles slant. As Cody has discussed several times on the Establish the Collection Podcast (@CollectionETR), Khamzat is his guy. Ryan has over a decade’s worth of experience in buying and selling sports collectibles, but he does not know enough about the UFC to go out and bet on fighters without seeking outside insights. In fact, Ryan did not know who Khamzat was until he started discussing Panini America’s first UFC products with Cody.

In this article, we will outline why Ryan is interested in UFC collectibles, why Cody is interested in Panini’s UFC releases while discussing why he specifically targeted Khamzat, why Ryan decided to tail Cody on Khamzat, and how we view our Khamzat investments after his first fight since battling Covid complications throughout the past year. Ryan and Cody also jointly bought a Panini America NFT serial numbered 1/49 in mid-August of this year. Both of them will walk you through their thought process on that purchase as well as their auction strategy. We’ll then close up with some of Cody’s post-fight thoughts on Khamzat while Ryan compares Cody’s play on the UFC fighter to one of his own from the early 2000s. 

 

Ryan’s Interest in the UFC and its Collectibles

— The UFC is a star-making sport, and a few of those stars have become cultural icons.

— The UFC is an international sport, which means that it has tremendous growth opportunities.

The UFC is a forward-thinking business in many ways that is constantly trying to increase its reach.  Its deal with AMC Theatres is one of many moves that have caught my eye over the years.

The UFC and Soccer (both men’s and women’s) are the two sports I’m most interested in outside of the traditional big four. Although, Gary Hartman’s (@ghartman314) Formula One could easily be added to that list.

The current Panini releases are all first editions for the UFC.

As soon as I learned of Panini’s UFC releases, I wanted to figure out who the headlining rookie(s) was in these first edition releases.

As soon as Dapper Labs releases their rumored UFC NFTs, I will have immediate interest in those as well.

 

Cody’s Interest in the UFC and Khamzat from a Collectibles Angle

The UFC is a growing sport with a rabid fanbase.

I immediately wanted to invest in Panini’s first-year UFC products, specifically the accessible yet sought after Prizm line that will have long-term collectability if the UFC and Khamzat succeed. We’ve seen similar debut offerings, like the iconic 2012 Panini Prizm NBA garner huge interest from sports card collectors and investors.

My goal was to buy several shorter-printed parallels. We’ve seen a big shift in recent months following the sports card boom of last year. During that run, everything was going up; raw cards, base cards, ultra-modern, modern, paper cards, chrome cards, refractors, etc. With oversupply concerns rearing its ugly head in sports like basketball, football, and baseball for post-2018 products, UFC’s 2021 Prizm release was a pleasant surprise. There are fewer cards overall and a handful of serial-numbered refractors/parallels that indicate a much more manageable print run for Panini’s flagship offering.

Khamzat is the premier rookie of Panini’s debut UFC products. For those who missed our UFC discussion on Establish The Collection, Khamzat quickly rose to UFC dominance during a two-month stretch with MMA centerstage in the middle of the pandemic. His three wins in just 66 days is a modern UFC record. More impressive, he absorbed just two strikes during those three fights, finishing two opponents in the first round.

Betting on Khamzat is betting on a premier talent that already has a massive cult following (over 2.7 million Instagram followers). We know when investing in athletes, on-court performance is just half the battle. Part of this process is finding athletes who can transcend the sport in which they play and become a part of mainstream culture. He’ll never be the showman that Conor McGregor or Nate Diaz are, but just three fights into his UFC career, an eat, sleep, breathe fighting mentality is resonating with fans.

Khamzat also has a potential comeback story as he had to cancel fights due to Covid complications over the last year. After missing an entire year, Khamzat returned to the octagon last Saturday to fight No. 11 ranked Welterweight Li Jingliang as a prohibitive -600 favorite. Since he won, there are few steps left before he’s taking on the very best in the division.

 

Why Ryan Tailed Cody on Khamzat

Cody will be the first one to tell you that I tend to make my own bets based off my own process. One day, he and I should probably argue on air about Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, to serve as an entertaining example. With that said, I always pay attention when highly intelligent people speak matter of factly about subjects they take seriously. In this instance, I already knew that Cody and I were on the same page in terms of our enthusiasm regarding Panini’s first edition UFC products. I also knew that Cody knows much more about the UFC than I do. His assessment of all the rookie fighters in this class was very thorough and genuinely interesting. It was also very clear that Khamzat was his flag plant, and his reasoning behind that made perfect sense to me. At the end of the day, we both wanted to buy the rookie with the best chance of becoming a UFC headliner in Panini America’s first edition UFC products.

At that point, I started buying Panini Prizm rookie cards of Khamzat with the intention of holding all of them long term. Right now, I have around a dozen base, one silver, and one red refractor numbered to /275. I also found that Panini had just released UFC blockchain NFTs last summer, of which I have bought a number of Khamzat examples. One of those, is an item that Cody and I split, which we will both discuss in the next section.

 

Cody and Ryan’s Khamzat Serial No. 1 NFT

Both of us started buying up UFC singles on the Panini Blockchain, as we were both getting some pretty good deals in the days after the first UFC pack drops on the Panini Blockchain. A few days later in mid-August, I caught a Panini Blockchain Select Concourse Tie Die parallel serial numbered 1/49. Since Khamzat was Cody’s guy, I asked Cody if he wanted to potentially go in on this one and Cody did. At that point, we began planning an auction strategy while discussing the bull and bear cases to this potential purchase.

We decided to initially put in a min bid of $200, while being ready to go to the buyout option of $450 if needed. We discussed how to handle this and why at length.

I leaned towards just buying it outright. We both had concerns about how much short-term and long-term interest there would be on any Panini blockchain products. But after researching some recent purchases on Panini’s blockchain, a number of Panini’s NBA NFTs of similar quality had already sold for thousands of dollars. But what was really encouraging was that Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov NFTs of similar quality had sold for much more than the buyout price for what we were targeting here.

The thesis behind this play was that, in a best-case scenario, Khamzat becomes one of the UFC’s headliners and we’ll have the No. 1 serial number for the top rookie in the first UFC blockchain product that anyone has ever released. If we’re right, $450 isn’t going to matter at all. If we’re wrong, turning $225 apiece into zero is well worth the potential upside if Khamzat hits and these products garner more interest as time goes on. With that said, we had both noticed that the UFC blockchain products were consistently getting much less action than the new NBA releases on the Panini Blockchain.

Ultimately, Cody suggested we open the bidding at the min bid and then pivot to the buyout if needed, as very few open UFC auctions had multiple bids. We had at least one competitor for this item, who would top us by one dollar regardless of our bid increment. When they topped our $325 bid, we decided to just take the buyout instead of risking losing this item over what was then roughly a hundred bucks split in two.

 

Cody’s Thoughts on Khamzat’s and his Collectibles Heading into his Fight

Khamzat looked like he’s tightened up and added muscle in his most recent fight on Oct. 30. That’s a very encouraging sign for Khamzat coming off his Covid complications. There’s always some concern when a fighter is returning from some form of health issue, but we can’t ask for much more than Khamzat speaking confidently about his cardio while looking like he’s in better shape.

Ryan loved this, as personality can go a long way in turning a great fighter into a culturally relevant one: Khamzat opened up about a brush-up he had with Kevin Holland in a hotel last year over a comment Holland made on Instagram. Long story short, Khamzat essentially grabbed Holland by the throat and pushed him away. Khamzat may not have the over-the-top showmanship of a McGregor, but his cold and confident killer type of attitude is one of the things that has driven Khabib’s star power, and it’s the kind of thing most fight fans love.

Lastly, Ryan listed some lower-end Khamzat stuff at auction on eBay to ride out the fight week hype and to gauge natural interest. The interest was definitely there.

 

Ryan’s Current Thoughts on Khamzat and the 1/49 NFT

Every Khamzat purchase that I’ve made has been a bet on him becoming one of the headliners in the UFC over the next few years. The original goal was to try and buy the guy that’s most likely to become THE rookie in the first edition UFC Panini products. I have no intention of selling anything Khamzat related anytime soon, though Cody’s news on Khamzat’s interest level was definitely encouraging and I’m always willing to pivot on these things if and when it makes sense to do so.

As far as the NFT we bought, Panini has since released a few lower mint run parallels in Select that came in different, more expensive packs. I think the 1/1 in particular hurts some of the upside in our original purchase. With that said, if Khamzat hits like we think he can, I’m still confident that we’re sitting on something interesting there. Serial number has mattered in a number of NFT projects and what we have came from the first pack releases.

 

Cody’s Post-Fight Enthusiasm, Narrated by Ryan

Not only has Cody been routinely declaring Khamzat as his guy both on Twitter and the Establish the Collection podcast for months, but an abnormally large amount of Cody’s collectibles budget has been devoted to Khamzat. For Cody, Khamzat is a capitalization play; one that’s already hit after Khamzat annihilated then 18-6 fighter Li Jingliang last Saturday at UFC 267.

One of the very best things about investing in athletes through collectibles is being early on a future star and then watching them become exactly that. When I mention decision points in any of my columns, that idea was born by going heavy on Aaron Rodgers while he was sitting behind Brett Favre. When you start betting heavily on an athlete while their future is still very undecided, there is an interesting dynamic of absolute certainty mixed with invasions of significant doubt. Am I buying too much? What if Brett Favre plays through Rodgers’ rookie deal? People say things like, “I don’t know” while shaking their head when I told them that Rodgers is going to be better than Favre. Then when the best-case scenario begins to unfold like you thought it would, you then have to figure out how, exactly, you’re going to ride this wave by planning out when to sell the various options in your inventory. Decision points.

I wanted to write this section because I think Khamzat is Cody’s Aaron Rodgers. I say that because when Cody would speak to me about Khamzat, he wasn’t framing it as this could be the headlining rookie in Panini’s first edition UFC products long term. Cody never compared Khamzat to other rookies. Now that I think about it, he didn’t even mention any other rookies until I specifically asked him if there were any others of note. Cody would instead compare Khamzat to Connor McGregor, Khabib, and a few past icons of the sport to try and work out how Khamzat could potentially fit in that hierarchy in time. I did the same thing with Rodgers. I actually laughed when the 49ers drafted Alex Smith first overall instead. I haven’t spent a single second of my life comparing those two. Instead, when I talked about Rodgers, it was always versus guys like Brett Favre or John Elway.

Cody was thrilled with Khamzat’s post-fight interviews because, to him, it was clear that he’s been getting groomed to be a star. He’s talking about Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather because that level of iconic fighter is his goal, and he sees himself as one of those guys. As Cody said on Twitter, Khamzat is a Khabib-level fighter with Connor’s ability to transcend the sport. Cultural icon. But my favorite comment from Cody happened just yesterday when he said: “Dana White is a kingmaker, and the throne is empty.”