First came the explosion of the sport of MMA. Now we are seeing the emergence of MMA gyms throughout the country. Even the UFC has partnered with the founder of 24 Hour Fitness Mark Mastrov to develop UFC Gyms. So what are the benefits and disadvantages of an MMA based gym, and what differences are there in the management of these new and exciting gym models? The short answer on management is that they are very much the same. Whether a member is lifting weights, doing Pilates, taking a boxing, a Jiu Jitsu class, or an MMA class, the day to day operation of an MMA gym is basically the same as a typical gym. Sure there are differences, but the similarities are so great that anyone familiar with gym management will find themselves well equipped to operate an MMA based gym. The biggest differences lie in the instructors, and the space and resources devoted to classes.
While a typical gym has aerobic, spinning, and Pilates instructors, the MMA gym has instructors skilled in disciplines such as Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, and MMA. The good news is that there are more of these highly qualified instructors than you might imagine, and many of them are more than happy to earn a living doing what they love. The typical gym also has more equipment, with members doing individual workouts, while the MMA gym offers more classes and group exercise. The similarities in these two very different gyms are endless. All clubs need members, and need to service those members with a mix of exercise options. The operator needs to market their service to their demographic, get prospects in the gym, build value in their amenities, and add new members. Th
en they need to service the members needs, reducing attrition, and generate referrals. The advertizing mediums may be somewhat different if the fitness center has an older demographic, but in the 18 to 39 age group, both entities will be using the same avenues to reach their target market. From sales, to advertizing, to class formats, to bookkeeping, to management, there are vast similarities in the operation of an MMA gym and a typical gym. As for the advantages and disadvantages, these are endless too. While the typical gym appeals to a broader market, the MMA based gym appeals to a growing number of members who want more than the typical gym has to offer. Namely, they want the social benefits of a group exercise environment, and the knowledge and results achieved through intense “self defense based” instruction in boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and MMA.
Burning calories and adding muscle is still important, but walking away self empowered, with new friends, and real Martial Arts techniques is a real benefit. The MMA gym member is also attracted to the popularity and notoriety of the sport, and the super athletes that train in their gym. A cauliflower ear might look unappealing to some, but to others it is the mark of the 21st century gladiator, who is pretty cool to watch on TV and to know on a first name basis.
They are also willing to pay more. Recognizing the value of being trained by such gifted athletes, the average monthly dues of the MMA gym is usually double or triple the typical gym. So don’t be afraid to jump on this new and exciting trend and open your own MMA based gym. With some gym experience and good business sense, you should be just fine. On the other hand, if you need additional guidance, there is a great body of knowledge available out there. Check out trade associations such as IHRSA, the International Health Racquet and Sports Club Association. They have books and webinars on all aspects of operating gyms. Better yet, check out the only real MMA franchisor in the country, Victory MMA and Fitness. They are professional MMA gym operators, who have a proven concept, and can offer quality on-going support on all aspects of developing and managing an MMA based gym.