Q&A with MMA Community Leader, Benji Silva

Q&A with MMA Community Leader, Benji Silva

Recently, we caught up with Jiu Jitsu pro, Benji Silva, to talk about the business of Mixed Martial Arts. Besides his many years of experience in the sport himself, he also trains athletes in his own studio, True MVMT, out of Palo Alto, California. Take a look at what he has to say about both the competitive and business sides of MMA.


Q: What advice would you give someone who is looking to open their own MMA studio?

A: Some advice I would give to anyone looking to open a MMA gym is:

  1. First making sure the county which they want to open the space in doesn’t have zoning issues, I’ve seen many gyms start and fail because of them not taking the time to do the research. 

  2. Find true fighters, amateurs or professionals, that have actually fought and experienced the sport fully. The reason why is because oftentimes people end up at the typical cardio kickboxing/boxing classes that aren’t really structured to build good form but rather to just get a good cardio session in. There’s no problem in that style of classes, but it sometimes leaves people with a false impression that they know how to fight or protect themselves. 
  3. Coaching bad form can also lead to possible injuries like wrist, elbow, hands, etc. from not throwing punches or kicks properly which eventually will make members possibly canceling membership. A perk of having good real coaches that have fought in the sport or still do is that they understand it fully and what it takes. They can also help be a good marketing tool for promoting your gym when they fight which helps bring more members in. Growing up at my MMA gym all the members used to come to all the events and support the fighters from the gym which was amazing to see such an organically grown community from the members & staff. 
  4. Build out a good program that allows people to see growth in the process of learning any martial arts, for example in Jiu jitsu we get promoted to different colors of belts.
  5. Build up three amazing programs that are core aspects of the sport like Jiu jitsu, Muay Thai/boxing, and wrestling classes. This will give your members variety and options to choose from which is nice to have starting out.


Q: In your opinion, what is the better route for an MMA gym - one style of MMA or welcome all styles?

A: The best route for an MMA gym is to focus on the main core elements of the sport which are Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, boxing and wrestling. Any extra classes of other martial arts is ok but I find it not needed & overwhelming if there’s too many options to pick from. Less is definitely more when it comes to this sport, because you need to become well rounded at the core aspects of MMA first. 


Q: Do you offer other fitness genres in your gym or just BJJ?

A: True MVMT offers Jiu Jitsu and kickboxing. The rest of the gym is strength and conditioning for personal training and small group privates. When we move into our new big warehouse we will be offering Jiu Jitsu, kickboxing, wrestling, yoga, and strength & conditioning classes. 

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Q: What has been the biggest challenge of running your own MMA studio (COVID aside)?

A: The biggest challenge for me so far has mostly been the demand for more classes but unfortunately due to the gym size, it’s hard to share the space during another trainers’ personal training session with a full class in a smaller size gym. It will be way easier to do both once we are moved into the new big space.


Q: What would be the most beneficial part of using a gym management software, like Wodify, within MMA gyms?

A: Some of the key points why a gym management software like Wodify would be beneficial in a MMA gym are, having the ability to cap the size of classes so coaches don’t get overwhelmed with a class size of 50+ people. You can track students progress on how many times they have come to class, so when belt promotions come around and a student doesn’t get promoted they can’t be upset if they only come 1-2 times a month. It gives the coaching staff transparency on who really has been putting in the time to learn the curriculum. Having something like this will help keep members from being discouraged and improve retention, and often it will increase their will to come in more often so they can get promoted, etc.


Q: What has BJJ taught you both ON and OFF the mat as a person & business owner/trainer?

A: Jiu Jitsu and MMA have taught me to be self-sufficient, humble, have perseverance, confidence, and how to actually work hard for something I truly want in life. It has completely changed me into becoming a better coach, public speaker, family member, boyfriend and friend. 

I became a personal trainer because I was in the Palo Alto newspaper with a 3 page article for my upcoming MMA fight in San Francisco. That article made a manager of a high end boutique style gym in downtown facebook message me after reading it to come in for an interview for possibly teaching his kickboxing program. Fast forward in time, I ended up working there for 13, almost 14, years and was able to establish myself with becoming a great athletic trainer besides being a pro athlete. None of that would have happened if I never started training MMA in the first place. It helped me find my passion on and off the mat. It helped me wake up everyday happy to be able to do what I love for a living.




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