Though extremely busy with the grand opening of the UFC GYM in Corona, California, Adam Sedlack, Senior Vice President of UFC GYM, graciously donated some of his time to talk with me about the UFC GYM, a cooperative project between Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company, and New Evolution Ventures (NEV), a business co-founded by Jim Rowley and Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness.
A former Vice President at 24 Hour Fitness, Adam has a considerable amount of experience in the fitness industry, working there for 15 years. Now working with the UFC, he has overseen the construction of three UFC GYMs (Concord, Rosemead, and Corona), with a fourth (Honolulu, HI) on its way.
Kevin Leong: "First off, tell me about how the UFC GYM concept came into fruition."
Adam Sedlack: “Mark Mastrov was the founder of 24 Hour Fitness, and Jim Rowley played a large part in that company’s success. Mark sold 24 Hour Fitness in 2005, and soon after, founded New Evolution Ventures. Both Mark and Jim have been big UFC Fans and had a great relationship with Dana and Lorenzo.
Mark, Jim, Lorenzo and Dana talked about the natural brand extension of building a gym around how UFC athletes train. They clearly knew they had something special, as the way a UFC athlete trains is truly innovative in today’s fitness industry.
And so they had some initial discussions and created a joint-venture partnership between the UFC and NEV; at that point I was brought in to run UFC GYM. At day’s end, we were able to combine the world’s experts of MMA and Fitness together as one brand!
The UFC is very involved in everything that we do, so we feel that we can introduce a fresh, unique way to train and get fit, as the fitness industry has not really changed a whole lot over the last 30 years.
KL: So this is the third UFC GYM, the first two being Concord and Rosemead; what about Corona appealed to you for the placement of this third gym?
AS: After a long real estate study, the area and the site felt very strong to us. And when you look at Riverside, Corona, Rancho Cucamonga, Temecula and Murrieta, they all have a loyal UFC following.
So it really made sense because the brand appeal’s so high. In addition, when you mix in the high fitness penetration in the market, we knew this was a great opportunity to deliver something special. Right now the clubs that are out here…they all offer the same way to train: what I call the “generic fitness model.” And really, the measurement of success has been incredible here: we’ve had a great response, large amount of members enroll, and it continues to build off of that.
KL: Tell me a little about the gym in Corona.
AS: It’s 45,000 square feet, and like all of our other gyms, what we wanted to do was make it about community. One of my tests that I do, is I walk into a gym, no matter what gym I’m going to, is I walk in and see, “Okay, how many people are wearing headphones?” Because when you look at a high percentage of gym members wearing headphones, the members of that facility are not part of a fitness community, but are just attending out of convenience.
When you see people that are training, having fun and are excited, there is a significant difference in the feel of the gym. Those communities are what UFC GYM is all about.
The Corona gym has a very open floor plan, and is one of the best fitness and training gyms that I have ever seen. This gym has a huge bag room, mat room for BJJ and wrestling, group exercise studio, youth training center, private functional training area, café, full amenity locker rooms, and of course, the “As Real As It Gets” Octagon. When you throw in the amount of equipment and great team members, we think members will see and feel a truly unique experience.
Let’s remember the type of training we offer speaks to everyone. Whether your goal is to lose weight, create endurance, gain muscle, or train like a UFC athlete, we have the right people to get you to your end fitness destination.
KL: I saw on your Twitter page that you have a quote “A new space in the fitness industry. Not your Parent’s Gym; It is your Gym!” Talk to me about that quote.
AS: I look at UFC GYM as an industry difference maker. We are delivering innovation and a unique fitness experience. You are not going to just push some weights and get on a treadmill. On every visit you can do something a little bit different to keep the way you train fun, fresh and exciting, all while you are actually learning something.
We have really leveraged the UFC for their experiential skill set. This helps us provide an incredible environment inside the gyms; additionally, with the way that we’re training, the different types of functional conditioning and mixed martial art coaching and with the music a little edgier, you just flat out feel different attending a UFC GYM!
It’s really cool, and people remember working out here. They feel the difference, so when I say “it’s not your parent’s gym,” I mean it’s not that gym you worked out at 20 years ago, where every gym’s the same…it’s a new kind of innovation. “This is your gym,” this gym will get you results, and you won’t look the same in 10 years…
We always had kids’ programming in place, but not to the level we have now, and I’m really thankful that we went the way that we did, because not only are we changing these kids’ lives, but we’ve got so many stories of kids that are getting better grades, have more self-confidence, that have more discipline, they’re doing their chores without being asked. Our MMA managers actually have the kids show them their report cards, and as they’re going through belt-testing, they talk to every kid about their report card. The parents absolutely love that.
KL: So a similar question, I guess: How can, or how are the UFC Gyms changing people’s perceptions of the sport as a whole?
AS: It’s interesting, because you have people all the time that walk into these gyms and they think that we’re the Ultimate Fitness Center, and they don’t know anything about the UFC. And when they start understanding that we’re the UFC—the Ultimate Fighting Championship Gym— they can, at times, feel a little bit intimidated to go through the process.
When they hear about the concept, what the gym’s about, how we train, and how we develop our training after the best fighters in the world—there are no better athletes—and we teach you to train like them, all while giving you the ability to empower yourself and improve your self-confidence, then they become more inquisitive and want more information.
When they go to the club and they start hitting a couple bags, or look at some of the different types of equipment that we have, they get very curious, and say, “Hey, let’s give this a shot! I like the way this club feels.”
After joining the gym and attending the incredible classes, enrolling their kids in youth training, using the innovative equipment, and eating in our Arm Bar Café, they wonder how they ever trained at those generic fitness clubs! There is no better motivator than how you feel both physically and mentally!
And of course, in the club we hold UFC Fight Nights, and what’s really interesting is people will come into the gym for the first time not knowing what to expect while watching a UFC Fight. And about 95 percent of all the people who watch a UFC fight for the first time become UFC fans. You know why? It’s because they started training like a UFC athlete.
When they start understanding, “When you’re doing Muay Thai, BJJ, or other MMA disciplines, you’re using your whole body, there’s actual techniques you’re learning, and you’re using your brain and fitness ability to be good at the sport,” they appreciate the professional athletes that perform at the level they do.
Once you learn and you appreciate it, it’s like, “Wow.” It’s incredible to train in like a UFC athlete, and you really learn the techniques and strategy; now when you start thinking about how the athletes are thinking when they’re fighting, it makes you look at the sport in a very different way.
So I think what’s great about these gyms is it’s taking the world’s fastest growing sport and making it grow even faster, because we’re including a segment of the population that would never typically watch the UFC, and making them raving fans.
KL: BJ Penn announced on Saturday that he’s opening up a UFC Gym in Honolulu, Hawaii. Tell me a little about that gym and when the expected grand opening will be.
AS: Well, that gym is going to be unreal. First of all, Hawaii’s a great place to have a fitness club. It’s a great community; who doesn’t love Hawaii? The club here’s going to be a monster club: it’s going to be close to 40,000 square feet.
The location will be in the old Pipeline Café, which is a landmark location in Hawaii: everybody knows the Pipeline Café. The club’s going to be awesome. The gym will be very Hawaii-based: we’re going to hire directly in Hawaii and BJ’s going to be a very big part of that gym.
BJ’s one heck of a partner. He’s extremely motivated, extremely inspired to make that gym unique and his own, and we will continue to extend what we’ve already done out there…I can’t think of a better partner to have than him.
KL: In closing, if there was one thing you really wanted to know about the UFC Gym projects, what would it be?
AS: You read blogs, different e-mails from people who’ve never took a step through our doors, never been involved in a training class or fitness class, or a part of the gym, and they prequalify it right away. But if they really truly walk in and they feel the difference, they train differently, and they’re open to the kind of innovation we’re bringing inside the industry, I think people are going to be blown away.
We are so proud to wear the UFC badge, and are eager to show everyone not only why the sport is exploding in popularity and how joining a UFC GYM will get them a little closer it, but also to provide them with a fitness result never felt before! We truly care about our communities and the people inside our gyms. Just walk through the doors and let my team do the rest."
I had a great time interviewing Adam. The level of depth with which he was able to answer all of my questions blew me away, leaving me feeling the same excitement he has for the projects.
For those of you in Concord, Rosemead and Corona, support your local UFC Gym. If you haven’t been inside one, I encourage you to step through those doors and walk around; give it the opportunity to take your breath away. There’s nothing to lose, but plenty to gain.