The Dos and Don'ts of Starting an MMA Gym

The Dos and Don'ts of Starting an MMA Gym

Building any business from the ground up often requires patience, determination, passion, and skill. 

The same applies to an MMA gym, where you must invest in safety, trainers, and the growth of your clients. But very often, starting the process in itself can be overwhelming - here are some tips for getting started! 

So you want to start your own MMA gym?

Chances are, if you’re reading this you’re already into MMA. Maybe you’re a trainer, or want to become a trainer, and aim to one day start your very own MMA gym. 

If we got that right, let us let you in on a secret - not a single business grows overnight, and that includes your MMA gym. You will likely need patience, and a lot of it, to make your gym do well. 

But before you get started, here are some things you need to know. 

Things to know before you get started 

Starting small is rarely a bad idea. 

One of the largest and more recurring expenses for you as an MMA gym owner will be rent and other utilities, so try not to make the mistake of renting the largest space you can find in your first week of dreaming about a gym. This can leave you with little to no money left for things that otherwise actually matter, like marketing and equipment. 

Believe us, even if you’re confident that you will have the numbers to be running several classes simultaneously, those numbers will often take their time to reach you. Preparing for them well in advance can render a lot of equipment left unused, and the space looking rather bleak and empty.

How much money do I need to start my own MMA gym?

While the actual costs depend entirely on your savings, expansion, marketing needs and rent, many MMA gym owners complain that they lack money because they spent it all either on a larger space than they needed or on cheap equipment. 

Investing in cheap equipment is never a good idea. There is a reason it is cheap -  you will likely have to replace it after a short period. 

It is often better to invest in better quality equipment that doesn’t deteriorate at the slightest use and can be a functioning asset in your gym for years. 

How much space do I need to start my own MMA gym?

Whether you start coaching outdoors in a park or lease out a place to call your own gym, it can be a great idea to make the most of every square foot of area available to you.

It is also important that your clients get what they’re paying for, and a good training space is one of them. Assuming you start small, with a small budget and the ambition to grow, there are some tips and tricks you should keep in mind to ensure that your space is being used well. 

For example, instead of regular mats, it might be a good idea to invest in puzzle mats that can be made smaller or expanded depending on need. Rolling out mats is also a good idea for storage space and then allows you to open the gym space for more activities, not just MMA. 

Top do’s of starting your own MMA gym 

Over the last few years, the rise in popularity of MMA gyms has doubled and presents a great opportunity for a business. Here are some things you may want to do when starting your own MMA gym:

Build up your own MMA skills 

If you want to open your own MMA studio, you will probably need to have a decent level of experience in MMA yourself. 

So in case you’re reading this intending to start an MMA gym with no prior experience yourself, it may be a good idea to buckle down and improve your skillet first. 

While this could take months or even years, training and confidence in the art can play a crucial role in the success of your gym and classes, so it is often well worth investing in. 

As a final step, participating in competitions, or completing a training course, can be great ways to gain additional experience. 

Treat your gym as a business

As a business, it can be important to have the right setup to allow you to sell your product - in this case, MMA training.  

For an MMA gym, investing in the right setup mainly involves equipment and trainers. 

When you’re starting off your MMA gym in your local neighbourhood, there is no harm in asking those around you to bring their old equipment with them or even donate some before you invest in your own. 

This can give you a chance to determine what your clients need, and allows you the time to build your gym slowly. How many pieces of each piece of equipment you buy or rent for your MMA gym will depend entirely on how many people you get for training as well as the space you can offer to them. 

Some of the common and necessary equipment for an MMA gym includes: 

  • Mats 
  • Heavy bags 
  • Boxing gloves
  • Shin guards
  • Grappling dummies 
  • Headgear 
  • Target shields 

Marketing 

No matter how large or small your enterprise is, a website and active social media presence can play a crucial role in marketing your service. 

In an increasingly digital world, having a basic website or social media presence can make all the difference in customers trusting and choosing your gym over other gyms. 

An online presence is also the first direction in which people look for answers related to their questions and queries. Marketing can be essential for your MMA gym’s growth and there are several ways in which you can do it depending on resources and funding: 

  • Social media 
  • Content marketing
  • Websites
  • Online advertisements

Identify your ideal clientele 

Of course, your main target for customers will likely be those interested in fitness, already interested in MMA, or looking to get started with either of these.  

But with no leg in the industry beforehand, it can be tough to capture people’s attention and get them to believe in your vision and services. 

One great way to start? Organizing local MMA classes with your neighbours, community colleges, and schools. 

Most local public schools are happy to make a deal and offer you a space to take coaching and training sessions in, and that instantly gives you access to a lot of potential clients: young school going students who need physical activity. 

Price competitively 

It’s unlikely that anyone will want to buy what you’re selling if it’s available around the corner for half the price. 

Make sure you do your research in and around local MMA gyms to see what costs they’re operating at, why the prices they’re offering work, and more. 

Figure out a structure that is competitive enough to drive people your way. Avoid over-selling yourself unless you offer something incredibly out of the blue, but don’t under-sell either - you need to make revenue and profit to be able to keep the gym afloat. 

Top don’ts of starting your own MMA gym

Expect success overnight 

Just like any business, a gym will take time to grow. 

A business is successful when its customers are happy and satisfied, money is coming in, and all resources are being used to the best of their abilities and efficiency. 

It can often take months to advertise your place properly, assure people that you’re worth the money you’re asking them to spend on you, and more so the physical exertion MMA demands from them. 

Skimp on safety equipment 

Not having the safety equipment you need may go against your local MMA guidelines and laws, which could in turn cause injuries to your clients, yourself, as well as your business in terms of legal barriers. 

It is always important to make a note of everything you need to keep in stock and in well-working conditions in case of an emergency, whether that is headgear and other equipment or a fire hydrant according to the building laws in your neighborhood. 

Only offer one type or difficulty of class 

Offering one type of difficulty could drive potential customers and clients away. 

Those training under you may quickly want to move to another level of difficulty and move to another trainer or gym, and those who wish to train under you with no prior experience in MMA may feel out of depth and inept in contacting you confidently. 

Instead, aim to make your gym an inclusive space by offering all possible difficulty levels to meet all client expectations and needs. 

Do without gym management software 

Gyms are not usually easy businesses to run. 

With sign-ups, memberships, and coaching schedules, this workload just increases as your client base expands. 

One of the best investments you can make for your gym is gym management software. This can help automate reminders, invoices, class routines, attendance systems, and even digital contracts and waivers that are needed. 

By bringing all your data to a platform to be studied by you and saving you the trouble of having to coherently organize your data yourself, software like this can help you spend more of your time on other business activities and coaching other clients than on managerial work. 

Need a hand getting started?

Starting your own MMA gym can be difficult - but intensely rewarding - especially if you put in the work.

If you need a hand getting started, or simply want more info, book a free demo at Wodify today to learn how our fitness platform can help you take your MMA gym to the next level.


Ready to put what you’ve learned into practice?
Download a free PDF handbook with many of NCFIT’s gym management procedures and philosophies that you can implement in your gym today.
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