Photo courtesy UFC
So last week we showed you a video promoting a Kickstarter project called Nutshellz, which advertises itself as the strongest testicular protector in the world. In it, the cup’s creator Jeremiah Raber strapped one on and let a friend shoot him right in the groin with a rifle. You should watch it, if you haven’t already.
Obviously we wanted to know what motivated a man to protect his nuts so well, so we got him on the phone to pick his brain about the origin of Nutshellz and what he sees for the future of junk protection.
BR: So what was your inspiration for creating a bulletproof jockstrap?
JR: Well, it didn’t start out as “Hey, I’m gonna make a bullet proof cup.” It all goes back to UFC 65, with Matt Hughes defending his title against Georges St. Pierre. Hughes was my favorite fighter, a good old country boy and all time winningest weltereweight in the UFC. GSP got in there and just kicked him in the nuts twice. The refs stopped the fight to gave him time to recover, but after that he started dropping his hands. It’ss a natural reaction, and St. Pierre took the opportunity and started dropping bombs on his face, knocked him down, and took his title. On my way home from the fight, I was raging mad.
I’d done kickboxing and Muay Thai on and off for years and was familiar with the disadvantages of standard athletic cups. I thought to myself “There’s gotta be a better design.” Cups usually sit on top of the genitals, and when Matt Hughes took those inside leg kicks St. Pierre’s feet slid up along his inner thigh, so it pushed everything up along with it. And, if you’re defending yourself in a real fight, that’s a powerful kick to be able to throw. So that was my original idea: a groin cover that would also allow people who train in self defense to throw a groin kick and not go down.
BR: So what happened next?
JR: I went to my wife’s cousin’s husband, he does racecar design with Kevlar. He showed me how to make a mold and get material, and I just started learning it in my garage.
I bought every single competitor’s cup that I could find, wore them around, drew from their good qualities and took note of their flaws. Then I came up with my own deal, molded it out with clay, did resin casting, and then finally went to a CAD designer had them do stereolithography. That’s basically like super accurate 3D printing. I had a couple of those made to check fit and shape, and even from there I still knew I need to make changes.
I tweaked and tweaked until finally after grinding it came out right and filed for the first patent. We made some changes and are preparing right now to file a second. 8 years and $260,000 went into thi project. I make $50K a year at the day job, so that’s a lot of investment for me, but it’s worth it.
BR: So who do you see as the audience for this indestructable cup?
When we first launched a few years ago, we just had the level 2 cup, which is made of carbon fiber, Kevlar, and another material called Dynema, which is a ultra high molecular weight polyethlene. And this will stop faster threats. For someone in the line of fire, this would make more sense.
When we first released the Nutshellz, people said to us “It’s awesome, but I just play sports.” So we started putting our heads together to develop a less expensive version that still offered serious protection. The processing requirements for Dynema take a lot more time and pressure, slows down the production and makes the product more expensive.
So for the new design, we take the Dynema out and add more kevlar and carbon to the sport model. And this thing’s pretty damn tough. UFC fighter Daron Cruikshank sent us a video of him shooting his cup with 45 ACP pistol. He wanted to see if what I was claiming was true, and it is: even the sports model will stop a round.
The Level 2, our original model, is keyed more towards police and military. One of the things I’m most excited about is that it could help protect soldiers from IEDs. This has been a huge problem in Iraq, where groin injuries from IED blasts are all too common. And also in sports – you’ve got cricket, baseball and hockey, which all have 6 ounce projectiles traveling at 100, 120 miles per hour. That can easily shatter a plastic cup, and if you google product recalls, you can see which of my competitors this has happened to.
These companies, they make jerseys, hats, all sorts of other stuff, so when they get into the cup business they try to make it cheap. We didn’t do that. We started out thinking about how can we make the most badass cup with strong materials and place the price where it is when it’s done. We like the space we’re in.
BR: So what’s next?
JR: It’s not there yet. I’m being prudent about it, not quitting my day job, but it is supporting itself now. I don’t have to keep dumping work cash into it.
I’d like to build it even bigger. I have ideas for other products, but we’re going to take it one thing at a time. The Kickstarter campaign is so we can develop a youth model of the Nutshellz cup. From there, it’s logical to do a helmet just as tough – goalie masks, baseball helmets, et cetera. Let’s get this protective gear on the athletes who can really use it.Get your balls in the game! Donate to the Sean Kimerling Foundation to win the battle against testicular cancer.