This is an article I hope helped do some good for a group of guys who basically wanted to help out others who couldn't afford jiu-jitsu in one of the lowest income per capita regions of the US. I haven't had the chance to catch up with these guys lately, but I'd love to hear how their story has progressed since the time of this interview.
Many fans of the UFC freely admit they may never be the next Anderson Silva, Forrest Griffin or Rich Franklin (at least the sane one’s do), but for a healthy number of Mixed Martial Arts enthusiasts, MMA is more than just a spectator sport.
For every professional fighter who spends hours in the gym trying to diversify their fight game, there are hundreds of amateur practitioners hitting the mats to stay in shape, improve their confidence or stay focused outside of school.
And for those weekend warriors—who aren’t necessarily looking to end up in the Octagon—the long term commitment to regularly practice Mixed Martial Arts is not just time consuming, it can also slowly chip away at one’s disposable income.
Enter Nampa Nogi. A donation-based, not-for-profit organization, spearheaded by three MMA practitioners, that aims to create a space for like-minded individuals in Nampa, Idaho who are struggling to make ends meet, but don’t have the money to train at a gym.
And what would be the total cost per month to join said proposed gym: absolutely nothing.
“We’re looking to fund a non-profit, volunteer-based grappling gym. We know lots of people in the area who do martial arts… like [UFC fighter] Scott Jorgensen who’s doing some videos with us,” said Nampa Nogi co-founder Samuel Lang.
Through the use of the website, Indiegogo.com (think kickstarter, but more different), Lang and two of his fellow MMA enthusiasts Shayne Yetter, and Austin Hanzlik are asking for fellow fight fans, martial artists, and, yes, even famed MMA fighters to give what they can (donations as small as $1 on up) to help fund their community gym.
“Just on our Twitter campaign we’ve got a lot of re-tweets from people, even UFC fighters who ask ‘where is this,’ ‘oh man, I wish this was in my area.’ I have multiple notes in my inbox that say ‘maybe this’ll start a trend.’ Hopefully,” said Lang.
According to Yetter, the idea to open a gym came about after the trio interacted with a number of individuals throughout their community who had an interest in MMA, but who couldn’t afford to take classes with them.
“All gyms are expensive, but MMA gyms are sometimes even twice as expensive as that. I think a lot more people would enjoy doing if they had more opportunities. And there’s not that many opportunities for the casual, non-professional fighter,” said Hanzlik
While the three guys were able to teach many of the fundamentals to their friends (even drawing upon Lang’s ex-military training and experience rolling at Jorgensen’s Combat fitness), they found themselves without a permanent place to roll for the growing number of individuals who expressed interest in training.
“I think the main difference between using an established space as opposed to organizing a large group of people at a park or getting some mats and rolling somewhere else is: 1) it’s not weather specific and 2) that you have a permanent place that’s inviting to others to basically come and train when they can—that’s what we’re going for,” said Yetter.
The trio, who have received shout outs from UFC fighters like Jon Jones, Urijah Faber, and Brian Stann for their cause on twitter, state that their ultimate goal is to utilize willing mixed martial arts experts and blackbelts in the community who have expressed interest in teaching at their space.
“Right now we’ve got more than a few dozen people interested, but I think that’ll change as we get closer to our goal. Mostly, because the physical place isn’t ready yet and we can’t promote it until it’s done. I think people are skeptical that this could even happen, but we’re pretty much putting everything we can into it.”
And yet, despite a flood of positive responses and well wishes from supporters on the interweb, the group’s is currently $2,300 shy of its $3,000 goal going into the home stretch of the campaign (the campaign ends at 11:59pm on September 14th).
With a designated training space already accessible and ready for renovation and a partner with a background in construction (Hanzlik), all of the money raised from the campaign to be used to purchase mats and lumber.
“The construction is to physically raise the floor up a little bit, put some plywood on it, give it a little bit of spring in it, put mats on top of that. Mats are the main thing that we don’t have in our space. But that’s goal, getting the space in a place that makes it safe and we can get people to come,” said Hanzlik.
But what happens if they don’t make their goal?
“We’re putting a lot of sweat equity into it already, I’m currently covering a lot of construction and tools out of my own pocket. We all work and we all have families, so we’re not going to be able to put in thousands of dollars, but we know a place like this could help,” said Hanzlik.
A sentiment that’s echoed by Lang.
“If we don’t make our goal, we’re still going to try and find a way to get something going for the community, but that’s in addition to everything else—time, promotion, organizing, and maintenance—once we actually get the gym up,” said Lang.
And what do they have to say to charitable donors who may be concerned they’re merely funding a recreational fight club for three guys and their friends?
“I think our best appeal to potential donors is this: the people who do train know how it makes them feel. It gives you a sense of belonging, a sense of team. It’s all about martial arts and sharing it with others. And to know you can give it to someone else—knowing they might not be able to afford it in the same way you can—its really an amazing feeling,” said Lang.
For more info on where to donate, visit their Indiegogo site or follow their Twitter (@MovementMMA).