A lot of would-be mixed martial artists have walked through the doors at Adrenaline Training Center, in London, Ont.
Most of them have dreams of becoming professional fighters. Alex ‘Pecker’ Gasson, who is the manager and one of the instructors at ATC, remembers one in particular.
“This guy packed up his family and moved here from New Brunswick,” Gasson said. “He wanted to be a fighter. He never came back after the first day of training.”
The realities of what it takes to become a pro fighter are a shock for many people. Dreams of fame and glory may bring people to ATC, said Gasson, 33, but without dedication and sacrifice, those dreams can fade quickly.
“People don’t talk about the sacrifice, because it’s not glamorous,” said ‘Pecker’. “But training isn’t easy, and I don’t sugarcoat it for anyone. If they can’t handle the training, they can’t handle the ring.”
In the world of professional fighting, the real story is what goes on behind the scenes, outside of the spotlights and away from the screaming fans, said Gasson. Meeting the demands of a fighter’s life and maintaining commitments to family and friends can be difficult.
“Be prepared to sacrifice a lot,” Gasson said.
Adrenaline Training Center instructor Adam Higson knows about making sacrifices. A former amateur boxing champ and seven time kickboxing and Muaythai champ, Higgson, 35, has been training for over 20 years.
“Fighting cost me my marriage,” said Higson, before a workout with ATC strength and conditioning coach Brain Fletcher. “We see who our friends are when we’re not in the spotlight, when we’re training or dealing with a loss.”
This is why there is a strong sense of community in mixed martial arts, Gasson said. Fighters need a strong support network to help them survive the physical and emotional challenges that come with training and competing at the professional level.
Fighters must structure their lives around training. It is not uncommon for fighters to train six days a week, four to five hours a day, leaving little time or energy for anything else.
Days are typically divided into morning and afternoon sessions, training either striking, wrestling or jiu jitsu in one session, and strength and condition in the other. Mixed martial arts requires power and endurance, and so work outs are often based on circuit training that works the muscles and body to exhaustion, said Gasson.
This might include one minute sets of flipping a 350 pound tire, followed chin-ups, tossing around a medicine ball and ending off with rope exercises. And then repeat.
“Train as much as you can, and then double it,” said Gasson. “Remember, while you’re taking a break, what’s your opponent doing?”
The core group of people behind ATC has been together for more than a decade and they know what it takes to make it in the world of professional MMA.
Mark ‘The Machine’ Hominick, Sam ‘Hands of Stone’ Stout and Chris ‘The Polish Hammer’ Horodecki have all competed at the highest levels of the sport.
Stout, 27, recently competed at UFC 131, in Vancouver, B.C., on June 11. Stout defeated Yves Edwards with a first round knockout, earning himself a $70,000 ‘Knockout of the Night’ bonus. It was the sixth fight-night bonus of Stout’s career.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is the largest mixed martial arts organization in the world, drawing thousands of fans to their live events, with millions of more fans tuning in to watch from around the world.
Hominick, 28, who has been fighting professionally for almost a decade, recently fought for the featherweight belt at UFC 129, at the end of April, in Toronto, Ont. The event was held at the Rogers Center in front of 55,000 fans, the biggest MMA event in North American history.
Although Hominick lost the fight, his performance earned him a Fight of the Night bonus of $129,000.
Horodecki, 23, began training when he was 13 years old and started fighting professionally just after his 18th birthday. He has fought around the world in MMA’s biggest promotions, including the UFC, the WEC and Affliction.
Gasson, who began training mixed martial arts in his late teens, is a former North American kick boxing champion and has competed in events around the world. But his days of competing are over, after breaking his neck last November. Now, Gasson sees it as his job to help the members of ATC reach their own personal goals.
Not everyone who comes to train at ATC aspires to a career in fighting, so training is tailored to the individual. As demanding as the training regime may be, sometimes the most difficult thing is building up the nerve to train at ATC.
From outside, the building is a nondescript warehouse, but inside the gym equipped for serious training. Divided into sections, one half of the gym is dedicate to training strength and cardio, and the other half is lined with wrestling mats for working on grappling and fighting techniques.
A number of heavy bags hang from the ceiling, and there is a boxing ring and an MMA cage, costing over $20,000 combined, for all out sparring, said Gasson.
Many people are intimidated when they first come to ATC, and Gasson tries to make the new students comfortable. “That’s my job, to make sure it’s a smooth transition.”
With MMA’s crossover into mainstream acceptability, it has become a popular form of exercise. Gasson estimated that 90% of ATC’s 424 clients are fitness orientated. The remaining 10% are serious about becoming professional fighters, of which 1% might actually make it.
It is not uncommon for some of the aspiring pros to work at the gym in exchange for memberships, said Gasson. Training fulltime makes holding down a job difficult, so fighters typically struggle to pay for necessities like food and shelter, meaning many cannot afford the cost of working with professional trainers.
“The gym couldn’t survive with only pros,” Gasson said. “Often those guys have nothing.”
Nothing but dreams about becoming professional fighters.
Contact Adrenaline Training Center:
1794 Dundas Street, Unit 1.
London Ontario, N5W 3E6