After my partner Erik and I returned home from the new UFC Gym in Concord we spent many hours going over our impressions. We admittedly had high hopes and a modicum of fear, would this next big venture from 24 hour Fitness Gurus Mastrov and Rowley signal the end to Mom and Pop martial art schools like ours? Would we love it so much we would want to train there? Should we try to get on the bandwagon somehow? Do they know something we do not?
Frankly, I was less worried than Erik. I had read how their demographic is the 18-34 year old group and that’s not our main audience (although we would love to have more people from this age group). We excel at working with children.
Their selling point is that the fitness industry hasn’t really changed much since the 24 hour fitness model was created and that this is all new.
I had read this sale point before I arrived and when I heard our salesman, Frank Pampo quote it, it was hard for me not to challenge him. From my perspecitve it’s changed a lot and keeps changing. Unlike the years at the inception of 24 hour Fitness, now there are small and large studios using software such as MINDBODY, that allow them to schedule students into classes in advance (charging a small fee if they are a no show.) There are many more certified instructors who are certified in many more areas than ever. Pilates, Yoga, Personal Training, Zumba, the list goes on. As instructor with a lot of real experience, I am often humbled by those around me who are ‘certified’ in so many specialty areas.
It’s a strange point to say that the industry hasn’t changed. I think the industry has exploded with new mind/body classes that need a new and exciting forum to allow their instructors to reach a mass audience. More than ever people are realizing the benefits of cross training. Not only does it keep the boredom of treadmill exercises at bay, it promotes mental agility.
As a child growing up in Long Beach, I would have loved to be able to take Tahitian Dance through the Parks and Rec Department. Unfortunately there was only ballet and tap.
But back to the Gym. Their point is that people are ready to experience the satisfaction that comes with a full body workout…classes that replicate what cage fighters need to do to prepare for the fight. Brazilian Ju Jitsu, Kickboxing, “DUT” training (derived from Cross Fit) etc.
As a woman who transformed her body in her late 30’s using martial arts to do it, I whole-heartedly agree. There is nothing in the world like kicking, punching, falling down and getting up again to get a body into shape.
So, I’m intrigued. Does the UFC have a program to help average Joe get in tune with this type of training?
We were surprised to learn, first off, that the facility has a strange fung shui. The building is a box, but the rooms are cut off, cut at odd angles and windowless.
The children’s training area is reached only by going through a preschool area with televisions & video games, and although I’m sure it’s state of the art, frankly no kid I know would feel proud to be walking through the toddler area to get to his MMA classes. Kind of a mistake, I think. In an effort to keep the kids secure, they got turned around.
The next thing you see are all the machines filling the main floor. Frank, our rep, is quick to point out that these are all empty during the peak training times because everyone is in the fitness classes upstairs. I guess that’s a good indication of how popular those classes are, but again, the layout needs work, and even he seems to know it.
There’s an octagon, but it’s decidedly scaled down and we are told there is no sparring on the premises. The goal of the gym is to get people fit, ready, then if they want to spar they need to go off-site. They are forming ‘partnerships’ with clubs in the area, but any true affiliation sounds like a bit of a liability, so I wonder.
Inside we see kids practicing back falls, which is I believe one of the best things anyone can learn. So, of course, we get into a discussion about the curriculum.
Surprisingly, that part is not worked out yet. We spoke with Mark Fickett, who is in charge of the MMA side of the program. He told us about the enormous challenge he is facing. The company wants to open five more locations this year, and then a hundred more in the next five years. He said they had over 7000 local applicants for jobs as MMA instructors and auditioned a pool of about one hundred.
Each instructor has your standard impressive ‘belt level’ résumé, but as local instructors we were wondering how we missed this cattle call of applications since we’ve been following this since its inception. No bitterness.
Anyway, it seems that most of Mr. Fickett’s time has been spent getting instructors and trying to figure out how to get everyone on the same page. The goal of offering a “UFC” black belt is still in the works as a curriculum has not been worked out yet.
So what does it mean to be an MMA black belt? Good question. Seems like someone should be working on it full time.
Another thing we were looking forward to was finding out if there was a Dana White/UFC Certified Instructor program, whether everyone there will be trained under one umbrella and understand his/her teaching & component. It seems that they will be–eventually. Maybe.
That’s where I come in. I’m a great listener and facilitator. I may not be the one with all the ideas, but I do have a deep understanding of what is feasible vis-a-vis safety insurance risks, etc. I think I could be the Girl Friday gal on the job, coordinating between the various facets of the organization, coming up with a finished product that can be marketed and presented to all parties.