By Ashley Allen
Fight workouts and combat sports are currently topping the chart in Boston, and around the country as an up-and-coming fitness trend. Within the city of Boston, there more than a dozen fight themed fitness facilities, which include boxing and mixed martial arts studios.
Why here, why now?
Back in the 1980s and 1990s boxing, alongside baseball, football and basketball, was considered one of the great American sports, but its popularity fell with the emergence of Mixed Martial Arts on pay-per-view in the early 2000s.
After a decade of decline in popularity, boxing is making a comeback. In 2015 ,professional boxing matches are shown during prime time on both pay per view and cable, and the sport is quickly climbing back to the top. For example, the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight was one of the most anticipated athletic events of the year, which drew thousands of celebrities and highrollers to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for the May 2 showdown.
Mixed martial arts is gaining similar traction and is commonly referred to by many as the fastest growing sport in the world. MMA encompasses disciplines from various martial arts and Olympic sports, such as boxing, kick-boxing, karate, jujitsu, muay thai, tae kwon do, wrestling and judo.
As interest in professional fights continues to grow, so does the desire to train like a fighter, which has prompted thousands of fitness clubs around the country to adapt boxing and MMA training for the everyday gym-goer.
George Foreman III owns The Club by George Foreman III in Boston’s Seaport. The Club opened just over two years ago, but The Club already has close to 2,000 members. The demand for membership is so great that Foreman decided to open two more gyms, one in Fenway and one in the Financial District.
Foreman said interest in combat sports, both nationally and locally, rises and falls with the economy, and he said opening a fight club at the end of a recession was not an accident. According to Foreman, it’s the “fighting spirit,” that drives individuals to succeed in work, personal life and fitness. Boxing and other combat sports, encompass that fighting spirit, which, according to Foreman, has led to the major increase in combat fitness trends.
Foreman said anyone can come to The Club, put on a pair of boxing gloves, and immediately be hooked, and that was the case for Boston resident, Ryan Kent.
Ryan Kent is a 29-year old insurance agent living in South Boston who started boxing at The Club by George Foreman III in the Fort Point neighborhood back in January. Kent played football throughout high school and college, but when he graduated he said he wanted to find something to keep him in shape. Kent said “I used to just go to the gym and lift weights because that’s what we would do in college to get ready for football,” Kent said. “Once I was out of school, I tried to keep in shape, but without my teammates and a sport that I had to prepare for, I lost motivation, and would I would just get bored at the gym.” Kent tried CrossFit, but didn’t like the weight-lifting focus. Kent explained that what made him stick with boxing was the variation in the training.
As much as Kent loves boxing, he acknowledged it’s not for everyone. In order to keep in fighting shape, Kent wakes up at 6:30a.m. every morning to get his workout in before work, and often returns to the gym after a full day at the office for a second round of training. “It’s definitely a lot, but if you want to get inside the ring and fight someone, you need to be prepared,” he said, adding “sometime you wake up and say, ‘I really don’t want to do this today,’ but to be a fighter, you need to push yourself past those thoughts.” In addition to waking up early, Kent has to watch his weight to make his weight class.
Constantly monitoring weight is a common part of most fight trends. UFC Champion Conor McGregor talked about how he plans to lose 25 pounds before his fight against reigning champ, Jose Aldo.
McGregor began his career training under the tutelage of John Kavanagh, the first Irish person to achieve a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu, but he has also drawn his ultimate fighting skills from arts such as tae kwon do, karate and kick boxing. When asked why he thinks fighting fitness trends have swept the country, and more specifically Boston, he said he believes it’s because fighting is part of human nature.
Boston based jujutsu artist and instructor, Edwin Frias, agreed with McGregor, and believes fight trends are popular because they allow individuals to embrace their innate “warrior self.”
Frias said learning how to fight and learning how to defend oneself is an essential part of being human, and something everyone can achieve if they have will.
President of UFC, Dana White disagrees with Frias, and said it takes a certain type of person to become a true fighter.
But Boston resident Kaylee Bugg agrees with White, that fighting is not for everyone. She said fight-type workouts intimidate her.