And if fighting isn’t for you, you can watch people fight in a cage. Which is also awesome.
Young’s MMA, a small gym in Brewer, is doing just that, training fighters – one who’s recently gone pro – in the burgeoning cage fights that are taking place in Portland.
Chris Young the owner and founder of Young’s MMA has been interested in martial arts since he was young.
“I’ve been doing this for 20-something years,” he said, having competed until an injury set him back. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he learned how he enjoyed coaching younger fighters for the cage matches. “What we do is pure MMA – a little of everything.” “I want to be able to do this full time, and it would be the proverbial dream come true,” said Young.
But that can be easier said than done. Young’s gym is located in the basement of his Brewer home. And though it works great as a gym, with mats, pads and gear for fighting, Young can’t help but want more. Not for himself, but for his fighters.
“I’d like to have enough space for a full-size cage,” he said. And with 15 people using the gym, it’s space he could really use.
With a reputation as a violent sport, many area gyms don’t like the idea of training MMA fighters. And though Young won’t dispute that violence is inherent in the sport, he thinks it pales in comparison to the violence in other, similar fighting sports, including boxing.
“When it first came out, people compared it to human cock fighting,” said Ryan Sanders, Young’s MMA pro-fighter. “I’ve been in six fights, pro and amateur, and I think I’ve gotten one bruise. If you get hit in MMA, they hit you a couple of times and the ref is going to stop it. It’s not as brutal as people make it out to be.”
Sanders pointed out that there are more annual deaths in professional football than in mixed martial arts.
Still, training to be a fighter is hard. Not a little hard: really, really rugged. This is referred to as “camp.”
“I just started my camp,” said Sanders in an interview back in June. “Which is busting butts for eight weeks, doing six days a week, three days training twice a day a morning and then a night session. The morning is more conditioning based where we’re pretty much tortured with cardio.”
Sanders hopes one day to be able to devote all of his time to training.
“The elite guys, it’s their full-time job. They train eight hours a day, six days a week. They go to the gym and just work,” he said.
Sanders enjoys the sport and being part of Young’s MMA.
“We’re not so much as team as we are a family,” he said. “We’re a close-knit group. Our coach is not only our coach, but our friend. He’s like a big brother to us. He really cares about us. In other gyms, all they see are dollar signs. Coach sees us as who we are. He genuinely cares about us, which is awesome.”
Sanders, along with Ray Wood, will be participating in the Global Fight League’s Heavy Hitters Event on Sept. 23 at the Portland Expo. He recently was signed on professionally after he surprised everyone by fighting and winning against Anthony Kaponis.
“I was more or less set up to lose and left to the wolves. It was a good fight, not just for me but for our team. It was the first victory for Young’s MMA,” he said.
Young hopes that he can continue to train great fighters and that the sport continues to grow in popularity.
“[MMA] is not an easy thing to break into. Before, I never felt the time was right. It’s the right time now. The sport is big in the area and young people are getting into it,” said Young. “I have guys who have what it takes.”
Fight ME – bringing the fights to Maine
Some big names in MMA are now able to fight on their home turf, thanks to a change in the law. Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis has had a gym in the area for years, but only recently has been able to fight.
After the first fight back in May, one of Young’s fighters, Ryan Sanders was signed to fight exclusively at Global Fight League in Portland. His upcoming debut match is on Sept. 23. Jason Leeman, the director of operations of the Maine branch of Global Fight League, has been involved in various forms of martial arts for some time. He’s on the same ticket as Davis and other big-name fighters.
Headlining the fight are Marcus Davis vs. Josh Hersey and Shaun Durfee vs. John Johnston. Those names and more will be duking it out in a cage.
“I spent my whole life doing martial arts, starting at the YMCA doing tae kwon do and my love for martial arts grew from there,” he said. “I think I can do a great show in the state that can be one of the best. That’s what we’re doing: producing high-level mixed martial arts in Maine.”
Since hosting fights in Portland the response has been excellent, but there’s a side effect that he enjoys about being able to host fights in the state.
“What I love is Maine fighters want to stay in Maine and fight,” he said. “We’re filling a void in sports in Maine by offering something else. The biggest reason I do what I do is because I want these fighters to stay in the state of Maine. It felt like they had to go to Las Vegas or Iowa or Florida [previously] because there were no opportunities in Maine. I feel that Global Fight League is filling that hole in keeping people in the state of Maine.”
Getting quality matches in Maine hasn’t been a struggle, which came as a pleasant surprise.
“It hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. Global Fight League has such a great production quality, fighters feel like they’re fighting in a top organization,” said Leeman. “Based on the quality of the show, fighters are coming to me and seeking to fight on the card.”
And the quality people were already here; it just took the state a little while to keep up.
“Now we can keep our guys home and have that level of fame hit and not have to go elsewhere,” said Leeman. “Maine really is a word-of-mouth state. We’re expecting the fight [in September] to have a spike in attendance. We’re always working for a sellout,” he said.
For more information about the upcoming fight or to purchase tickets, visit www.gflmma.com.