Racquetball Meets MMA
When asked which sport combines elements of others, thrives in health club facilities, and became America’s
fastest-growing recreational activity, you could answer racquetball in the ‘70s – or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) today. What started as a no-rules mix of boxing and wrestling has evolved into a new, exciting sport that brings participants together in a social way as they’re trained by top-notch pros. It’s a non-contact way to have fun getting a great workout. Sound familiar?
Like racquetball, MMA is thriving in colleges, military bases, and, similar to the successful LA Fitness chain’s strategy of building racquetball courts, it’s growing in clubs that differentiate their facility with something more unique that the newest treadmill machine.
Joe Mannino, partner wtih Victory MMA and Fitness in San Diego (http://victorygyms.com), and one of the Mannino family of investors who owned the first racquetball club in New York City. Eventually the group built four cutting edge facilities hosting professional, amateur events, well-known leagues, large pro shops and two boasted more than 16 courts. The family business is where his nephew, IRT President and former professional player, Jason Mannino got his early start. “Like racquetball, MMA programmers are the bloodline of the game. If the program is run properly, classes are full, and the segment prospers.”
Over thirty years in the health and fitness industry has given the elder Mannino a long-term perspective. “Then and today, health club owners have to keep the programs fresh and look at what’s next.” As health-club owners, Joe and his family stay current with fitness trends. “We take it to a cutting-edge level to what’s popular, morphing into what is needed to bring people in. We feel like this is the next generation.”
That’s the reason they opened the Victory MMA and Fitness, and why today they’re offering franchise opportunities for racquetball clubs, fitness facilities, and individuals, too. “There are so many health clubs out there. This can be an area of tremendous growth for them, because it allows them to connect with the pop-culture dynamic and differentiate themselves from other markets while capturing new ones.”
Clubs can supplement their programs in one of several ways. Opening their own Victory MMA and Fitness gym, adding an Victory MMA and Fitness component in an underutilized section of the facility, or individuals driving a mobile Victory MMA and Fitness vehicle. The truck, wrapped in graphics, comes professionally designed and organized with everything a trainer needs to offer an expanded workout, including self defense, boxing, bags, kettle bells, weights, benches, and bookkeeping.
Like racquetball, the sport can be intimidating for people until they try it, but once they do, they love it. Most continue to enjoy it recreationally, but others take it to the next level, competing in smaller arenas before joining the professional ranks. Televised fights, which sell a million pay-per-views, have evolved into shorter, three-round matches with more rules than in the past, making it safer than other contact sports like football and boxing.
Yet, the great majority of participants enjoy MMA as a cardio class that lets them walk away with friends, a feeling of empowerment, functional defensive technique, and a real workout. Joe Mannino gets something out of their workouts, too. “We love the industry, love doing good things and making a living doing it.”