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Fighting Fit with Dan Hardy and UFC

25 October 19 words: Isaac Seelochan
photos: Daniel Skurok

UFC GYM, the company associated with the famous MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) organisation have opened their first UK gym here in Nottingham. The gym has several unique features, including being the home of the first full-size Octagon ring in Europe. Isaac Seelochan went along to find out more.

When you think of UFC, for those of you who are not regular viewers you will probably imagine the likes of Connor Mcgregor and Ronda Rousey fighting it out in the Octagon, often without holding anything back.  

However, the UFC branded gyms which will soon be opening in over a hundred locations across the UK and Ireland are not necessarily just for those who want to train to be a UFC fighter. The gym offers fitness classes, both for groups and individuals which they say are suitable for the whole family.   

Dan Hardy is a former UFC fighter and commentator who is now an ambassador for UFC Gym alongside his media work. Having grown up in Nottingham, Dan told me a little bit about when he got into UFC and how, a decade after he first signed as a professional fighter, he still harbours ambitions to get back into the Octagon for at least one more fight:

“I started martial arts when I was six and I signed with the UFC in 2008. I wanted to be a UFC champion. I had ten fights in the UFC and got some good experience but didn't quite win a title and then I ended up commentating, working as an analyst and that's where I'm at right now. Maybe I’ll step back in and fight one more time but my main focus really and I feel at this stage in my life is to help continue martial arts growth and attract more people.”

Dan told me he believes that this gym, the first UFC GYM in Europe, is perfect for those who are looking for a place to learn martial arts whilst keeping fit. “A lot of people want to keep fit, and they'll join the gym and do fitness stuff because that's the baseline, but if you see the Jiu-Jitsu class going on you might think to yourself, ‘that looks more interesting than the treadmill.’ It's about adding a bit of variety into people's training,” he said, “The most important thing though for me is that Nottingham has a comfortable, friendly and warm place where people come in and don’t feel intimidated to have a go.”

The gym’s general manager Martin Ward, previously managed UFC GYM Bahrain and explains why this gym caters for different needs. “The only difference is what you aim to achieve, so, for instance, I may just want to get the opportunity to develop my endurance levels, my strength, my conditioning, but that doesn't mean I want to be a bodybuilder,” he says. “So middle-aged people, the elderly who want their mobility improved, they get the same disciplines that are delivered in martial arts towards fitness and the discipline is to make sure that you're not just doing it for that moment.”

It’s obviously too early to tell whether this will be a long term success not just in Nottingham but nationally, however Joe Long, a director of the gym tells me what he hopes this gym will bring to the city. “We hope it brings excitement number one and number two that it brings together families, whether mothers want to do yoga, fathers want to lift weights and kids want to do Jiu-Jitsu, it's for the whole family. It’s an all-inclusive facility which I believe is state of the art, on a national level and a statement piece for the rollout of UFC gym not only in the UK but also in Europe.”

Joe also says that it would be nice to see young people develop and grow from being a part of this gym.  “What we'd like to see come out of this, is a gym that shape’s young people's lives. Wouldn't it be nice to see an eight-year-old who started with our programme reach eighteen and carve a career within martial arts or become a better person,” he said.

 Quite simply, if they manage to do that then there is no question that this gym will have been a success. Find out more here.

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