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One of the biggest headaches for aspiring combat sport gym owners is building membership numbers. While traditional and digital marketing will work, one option to increase membership is to recruit an MMA fighter to train at your gym.

It might come as a surprise to many MMA gym owners, but there are plenty of fighters who struggle to find a gym that suits their particular needs.

If you want to attract these athletes to your gym, then you have to understand an MMA fighter's needs.

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What does an MMA fighter look for in a gym?

Mark Munoz, a middleweight UFC fighter, makes the obvious point that a typical MMA fighter isn’t a full time professional in his craft. They will often juggle eight hour days followed by a commute to and from the gym, working their socks off in training sessions.

It doesn’t leave much spare time for family, or anything else.

So why don’t gym owners make it easier for MMA fighters by making their facilities more readily available to them?

Munoz lists four desirables an MMA gym facility should have to attract a serious MMA fighter.

  • Gym Chemistry - A fighter needs to trust the owner, their facility, and their trainers, as well as the collaborative effort and support other fighters have for each other. This means making the effort to approach MMA fighters and invite them to meet you and those training at your gym before checking out the in-house benefits. If it doesn’t work on a personal level says Mark, then it’s not going to work out.
  • Strong Team Ethic - A gym needs to be either strong in one discipline or strong in all. Not every gym will have the trainers, coaches or equipment that excels in jujitsu, boxing, wrestling and strength and conditioning, and fighters know this. But if you want to attract MMA fighters, you must be able to demonstrate where your gym’s team strengths lie.
  • Sparring Partners - Being able to spar in a safe environment where there’s a clear distinction between going in hard and getting injured is a huge consideration. This is where the benefit of having coaches who are also strong characters comes into play.
  • Location - It isn’t always about location, some fighters choose gyms that are some distance away from their home because it ticks all the right boxes. But not all fighters know that the best gym might actually be on their doorstep. Mixed Martial Arts gyms need to be more proactive about this through active marketing.

How can MMA gyms find MMA fighters?

You have to be able to approach MMA fighters if you want them in your gym. While your facilities and gym culture can be attractive selling points, MMA fighters won’t discover this unless you find them and invite them to train at your gym.

This means being very active in the fight scene both near and not so near. Watching fights and talking to athletes will offer an insight into what they really want from a gym. The more time you interact, the more chance of gaining their trust.

  • Free membership - One of your biggest benefits can be either free or discounted membership or discounted coaching sessions. An MMA fighter needs a lot of coaching time to improve separate disciplines. While this can take up lots of time, their improvement and success is valuable marketing for your gym too, attracting more members and revenue elsewhere.
  • Sponsorship - Your biggest asset is your gym itself, so you should consider offering sponsorship to talented young fighters. You should also use your network of business contacts such as nutritional supplement companies or MMA equipment suppliers to help you offer free sponsorship benefits to up-and-coming fighters.

With sponsorship comes the ability to put your logo on their shorts, increasing your brand reach.

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Hire experienced MMA coaches

What really makes a difference is the quality of your coaching. Without great coaches, you aren’t going to be able to attract MMA fighters to your gym. So if you are serious about having promising fighters using your gym, then make sure you have coaches who have worked successfully with fighters before and who share in your gym culture. 

A great MMA coach will have the following traits:

  • A good rapport with fighters
  • Ability to understand a range of techniques and disciplines
  • Have a keen awareness of what motivates and drives individual fighters
  • Have a flexible, not rigid coaching style (what works for one doesn’t always work for others)
  • Previous experience with a number of fighters
  • Will approach their fighters with the same enthusiasm whether they are unknown newbies or experienced champions.

And finally...

When you do have MMA fighters in your gym, make sure you share their stories. Success breeds success and there is nothing quite like MMA fighter testimonials to spread the word that your gym has the mettle to produce successful, hungry fighters.

But sharing goes a lot further than this, it also means allowing even the humblest of gym member the opportunity to share their success as well. Whether it is losing 40lb, reaching 8% body fat or completing an Ironman.

Whatever achievements your members experience they should be advertised and celebrated. This ensures your gym culture is founded on collective success, which is easy to recognise and hard to fake.

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