HomeSportsInside the academy building the next MMA 'super-team'

Inside the academy building the next MMA ‘super-team’

On a spring morning in Solana Beach, 22 miles north of downtown San Diego, 20 fighters wake up in a Holiday Inn. They walk through the hotel, past the reception and out into the street, where their coach, Marc Fiore, is waiting for them with a message. This morning there will be no training on the sand, under the sun; With a rare rain shower, the wrestlers’ training session begins under the concrete shelter of a parking lot.

When aspiring mixed martial artists gratefully accepted an invitation from Graham Boylan, CEO of Europe’s top promotion Cage Warriors, to take part in a life-changing fighting program in California, there would have been more dreams of palm trees than of parking lots. Then again, every fighter here dreams of being locked in a cage to compete, so the confines of a makeshift, underground, greyscale training space will suffice. After all, this is little more than an inconvenient interruption to a typical day at MMA Fight Academy.

Order is restored with a session at the posh ‘BXNG Club’ next door, before the bout begins at the Studio 540 jiu-jitsu gym across town. There, Fiore, former trainer of UFC legends Matt Huges and Robbie Lawler, oversees the group along with black belt Jake Buracker, who studied under UFC icon BJ Penn. Under the tutelage of Fiore and Buracker, and the direction of Boylan, who also works with UFC stars Paddy “The Baddy Pimblett and Molly McCann,” the members of MMA Fight Academy are gearing up for what they hope will be long and illustrious careers. on the sport.

The 20 combatants here represent the remains of almost 700 researchers from around the world. Four Britons, four Italians and nine Indonesians join a fighter from Tajikistan, one from Moldova and one from Afghanistan. Some of the 20 are already professionals, early in their careers, and others are amateurs. They are all two months into a 12-week camp in San Diego, where their expenses are covered by the Academy, which is designed to give up-and-coming fighters a clearer path through MMA. Boylan’s Cage Warriors promotion is known as a feed system for the UFC, with Conor McGregor, Pimblett, McCann and more holding their titles before taking their next steps. Now, MMA Fight Academy can be seen as a feeding system for Cage Warriors; most of the Academy fighters will appear on upcoming Cage Warriors cards, while others will compete in a Road To UFC event. For some, a contract with Cage Warriors will follow.

Clockwise from top left: Liverpool’s Francis Breen and Connor Wilson; Eperaim Ginting from Indonesia; and the Italian Francesco Mazzeo


The fighters’ progress will also be documented in a series produced by Mola, which will highlight how the Academy differs from a project familiar to most MMA fans: the UFC. last fighter. While that program pits two groups of aspiring fighters against each other, MMA Fight Academy was designed to build a team: a group of athletes to motivate and help each other progress as fighters.

Boylan, with his Irish accent infiltrated by an American intonation after five years living in California, tells the independent:: “The first day, a lot of people were nervous, looking around the room, evaluating each other. But when we told them, ‘You’re not going to fight each other,’ the atmosphere changed in seconds. I told him: ‘We will become a unit, you will become inseparable.’ We have taken 20 strangers from their homes, from their families, and put them in a hotel. They have known each other by punching each other in the face twice a day and have become a family. Within five to 10 years, we are talking about a super team.

Teddy Stringer, 22, is one of four Britons on the MMA Fight Academy team.


The British side of the family consists of former Diversity dancer Jimmy Quinn from Dagenham; old friends from Liverpool, Connor Wilson and Francis Breen; and Teddy Stringer of Chesterfield. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Milad Ahady fights out of South Shields, while Moldova’s Marin Vetrila is based in Northampton. They are all between 20 and 20 years old. Ahady talks about the bullying he suffered when he first moved to England because he didn’t speak English, and how he would seek refuge in his local library, watch UFC fights and work on his language skills. By now, his accent is clearly that of a South Shields native.

Wilson, motivated by the need to keep his young son at home, excels in combat, while Stringer excels at the microphone as the athletes take part in their first press conference. “I remember that they called me to go to the tests, that was on Christmas Eve,” he says. the independent. “She was with my friends actually, in the pub.

“I’m 22, I live with my mum at home, I have a beat up Vauxhall Corsa in my driveway, that’s literally all I have going. I love the UK, I’m sure I’ll like the stuff when I come back, I’ll have a digestive biscuit and a cup of tea, but the chance to stay here is more appealing than that. I can get out of my comfort zone, push myself.”

Edoardo Caiazza was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage at age 17, but is now on his way to a promising wrestling career.


Many of the combatants have compelling stories. Italian Edoardo Caiazza was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage at age 17 and was unable to fight for the better part of four years. The father of compatriot Francesco Mazzeo suffered from drug addiction, and the next man his mother met was “the devil”, as the 25-year-old puts it. Meanwhile, Khadim Dia, also 25, was sent to Senegal by his family because of his own drug problems, before finding himself struggling. The Italians, stereotypically, stand out as the most fashionable on the stage of the Academy press conference.

Most Indonesians speak little English, but Boylan, Fiore and Buracker tell plenty of stories about their antics. Yoga Prabowo earned $20 a month as a physical education teacher in his and Ronal Siahaan’s home country, an active member of the Indonesian military. Meanwhile, Frans Sormin’s backstory is much darker, but it’s the most inspiring of all. The 26-year-old was abandoned by his father when he was a child, then survived a car accident but served jail time and even lost his house in a fire. More than any of his Academy colleagues, MMA saved his life.

And while Sormin’s story has a tragic start, Rheza Arianto’s time at the Academy has come to a tragic end. A knockout in combat has left the Indonesian unable to compete in China at the end of May, which means that her work in San Diego will have to be turned towards a new goal.

It’s an indicator that the Academy is an opportunity for a bright future in the sport, but not a guarantee of one. Despite all the assets available to boxers here, the inherent risk of the sport cannot be eliminated.

The reward, however, may be unrivaled.

MMA Fight Academy has been created and is financed by the entertainment company Mola as part of its commitment to invest in the future talent of sports broadcasting.

MMA Fight Academy Athletes to Feature on Upcoming Cage Warriors Cards and a Road To UFC Event

(MMA Fighting Academy / Mola)



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