Mixed martial arts is a serious sport. It’s where athletes crank up the dial to eleven, and really hone their skills to become masters of self-defense and self-discipline.
Does that really “vibe” with the way a fitness gym is run? Is it something that can coexist with rows of treadmills and ellipticals in the other room?
It can, but you have to be careful about it, and we’re going to show you how.
What is the Cost Breakdown of Starting an MMA Gym?
This is a difficult one to gauge, because an MMA gym actually doesn’t need as much as you would think.
MMA is a skill, not a singular muscle that you can just read an article about and exercise. You have to hone it like any other craft.
But you can’t just kick around in the air and expect to get stronger. This is what you need to get so that your athletes can train in between classes.
- Punching Bag: Called a heavy bag, these can range about $400 up to $600 depending on quality, size, and weight.
- Punching Bag Stand: Depending on whether you want to go with wall hanging or not, these range from about $30 up to $150, though full-scale all-steel ones can be hundreds more.
- Trainer Suit: These protect the chest, belly, and thighs, and are padded so that you can practice MMA moves on opponents without hurting them. These can be from $250 upwards of $400, and as protection, they’re worth every penny.
- Battle Ropes: While these are more CrossFit-centric than they are for MMA, they’re still useful. Battle ropes aren’t that expensive, ranging from $30 up to $150, but you also need something to anchor it to (a punching bag stand works wonders for this).
- Boxing Curved Focus Punching Mitts: These aren’t expensive, only ranging at about $25 to $40 or so, but you’ll need a good amount of them.
- Jump Rope: Speed is everything, so having high-quality jump ropes nearby are useful for athletes to train in between classes. These are about $10 up to $35 depending on the quality.
- Headgear: Head protection that ranges from about $25 up to $70 depending on the individual. These are going to take serious wear and tear so there’s no need to go on the more expensive end as long as they provide sufficient protection in the meantime.
- Foam Targets: These are covered targets that you can put in cages or around the gym for your athletes to focus on with kicks and punches. Individually, these are about $40 to $70 each depending on the size.
- MMA Cage: This is at the bottom of the list because it’s ridiculously expensive, but will really set your MMA gym apart from others. Cages range from about 6’ tall to 7’ tall, with a width of 16’ up to 24’. The bigger, the better. These begin at around $5,500 and will cost upwards of $9,000, so it’s likely that you’ll only have one or two in a fully equipped gym.
So that’s some of the basic equipment, but that’s not all you really need. Your gym will go nowhere without MMA instructors.
MMA gym memberships are around $50 to $200 per month. As we said before, it’s a dedicated sport, so people are willing to pay more for a high-quality MMA gym.
The catch is that MMA instructors are earning more than regular fitness coaches, so your MMA gym might need to borrow from the profits of the fitness side of your gym.
The average MMA instructor costs around $50,100 per year to maintain. You would need 1,002 $50 membership transactions over the course of a year to pay for that, equalling 84 individual members with 12-month memberships. That’s just for a single instructor.
But what if they teach four classes a day for 10 students each? What if they do that each day of the week?
That’s $10,000 in memberships at $50 a pop, assuming you can fill 200 class spots in the course of a five-day week. (That’s a pipe dream in the early stages of an MMA gym, by the way.)
But what if you charged more, just like other gyms do? Let’s say that you’ve done the market research, and you know that you can confidently charge $125 per membership to an MMA gym for classes, one class per week.
If an instructor can teach 10 per class 4 times a day, and you can fill those 200 spots over the course of a week, that’s $25,000 in memberships. Then it’s suddenly not so hard to pay your MMA instructor an average salary.
Those are numbers you can play around with, but it’s not that simple. You have to keep in mind:
- Members will likely want more than one class per week
- Instructors may not be physically available to teach 20 classes in a single week (they need rest to be at their peak)
- You’re not going to fill up all the spots in a class every single day or even every single week
Make sure you’re in an area where you can appropriately charge for your classes and make back more than enough to cover the cost of instructors alone.
How is it Compared with a Fitness Gym?
Now it’s time for a quick comparison.
How effective is it to host an MMA gym versus a traditional fitness gym with machines, classes, and the like?
Let’s talk about it.
- Fitness Gyms and MMA Gyms Can Co-Exist: You don’t have to be an all-or-nothing kind of gym. In fact, you shouldn’t stick to just having rows of treadmills and charging for access. You need to do something that no other gym is doing, so why not make it a hybrid gym and offer MMA classes?
- Both Can Have Classes: MMA classes are dedicated, but people will also pay an arm and a leg to go to spin classes to stay in shape, and that’s all in a traditional gym setting. You can have instructors and classes in both gyms and really drive up your revenue this way.
- Dedicated Athletic Spaces: To be clear, your MMA gym should be in a mostly separate space from your fitness gym. Nobody wants to carefully count deadlift reps while two men are beating the life out of each other ten feet away. Separate spaces, but a communal entryway that shows you have both services available.
- Reach Two Audiences: Not everyone who’s interested in one will be interested in the other. In fact, they may have stark differences, but that’s the beauty of making a gym that offers both. You reach two demographics and improve your revenue at the same time.
- Conversions: What if someone in your fitness gym spends about two months training, and now that they’ve bolstered their confidence, they want to try their hand at MMA? Furthermore, what if an MMA fighter needs a calmer day but they still want to exercise? They can walk over and use the spin bikes, the treadmills, what have you. You can convert one to the other, so MMA fighters may be interested in adding fitness classes onto their membership, and vice versa with standard fitness clients.
- It Can Be Off-Putting: People have their opinions about MMA, so they may not want to attend your gym if they know there’s cage fighting going on next door. This is a personal thing and pertains to individual clients, of course; not everyone is going to have an issue with this, but it might deter some customers.
- Cost: It’s not exactly cheap to run both of these gyms at the same time. You need separate instructors for each space (and we’ve already talked about how expensive an MMA instructor can be), and you need separate equipment. Facility management will look different, and overall it’s more floor space you’ll need to rent or buy. Price is perhaps the most prominent con to this list.
- Marketing Confusion: Are you an MMA gym, or a fitness gym with MMA classes? Are you a hybrid gym? It can be difficult to reach both markets in a singular marketing effort, so you may need to ante up the cost on your marketing material and pay a little bit more to reach both of those audiences simultaneously.
Creating an MMA gym is cost-heavy at the start, but later on, it’s not that expensive to maintain equipment.
Your main costs are going to come from hiring your instructors and making sure that they’re as good as possible.
MMA is a dedicated sport with serious athletes. It’s not just something that people get into over the course of the weekend because of an introductory deal.
You can run one while also operating a fitness gym, as long as you have dedicated space.