Back in January of 2009, I told you about how Dana White and the UFC had announced the launch of the new UFC Gym chain of martial arts and fitness centers.
(You can read the original post here)
As faithful readers of this blog will recall, I told you way back then that this could spell trouble for some martial art school owners in those areas where the UFC Gym chain plans to locate a facility.
Well, I was wrong.
Now, I’m warning that all school owners in these locations need to be concerned about this 800 lb. gorilla moving into your backyards.
At the time UFC Gym announced their launch, details were sketchy at best. I was unaware at that time of the extent of martial arts programs that UFC Gyms would offer. It ain’t pretty.
For example, just check out the verbiage found on the “Kids Programming” page at the UFC Gym site:
And sure, they’ve gotten off to a slow start. But I guarantee that once the economy gets back in full swing, they’ll start opening new facilities in major metropolitan areas across the country.
Not All Bad… But Not All Good, Either
Now, I’m not saying this means complete and utter gloom and doom for independent owner-operators in our industry. In the long run, I think it might actually help the industry, considering all the additional consumer awareness it could potentially bring to the martial arts.
But if you’re located near a proposed location, and you think this doesn’t spell trouble for your school in the short-term, think again.
I’d ask that you recall how Wal-Mart destroyed the mom-and-pop retail industry all over the United States. Then consider how The Home Depot has almost completely eliminated all the independent hardware stores across the country. And, examine how chains like Walgreen’s and CVS have slowly nudged independent pharmacies out of the market over the last 15 years.
Now, think about the martial arts industry as it exists today. Independent school owners who are going to be forced to go head-to-head with UFC Gym locations will be in for a fight.
Honestly, can you match their marketing budget or brand power?
Not likely. If they expand with anything near the market penetration that I believe they are going for (and remember, Dana White is a very ambitious businessman) then this has the potential to shake up our industry like nothing ever has.
If You Think You Might Be Competing With A UFC Gym…
If they move into your neighborhood you have one of two choices. You can gripe and complain about your sorry “luck”. Or, you can see it as an opportunity to improve your business.
My advice? Plan ahead to take advantage of the increased interest their massive marketing campaigns will create. Here’s how…
First, I suggest that you go back and read the recommendations I included at the end of my original post here. (Be sure to read the most recent comments to see what martial arts programs they are purportedly offering and what their rates are.)
Second, I suggest that you start rethinking the way you approach your business, and get smart about running a high-quality, high-touch, high-profit, “boutique” martial arts school. That means competing on the quality of your service and the unique experience you provide your clients… not on price.
Finally, I encourage you to avoid looking at the UFC, Dana White, or the UFC Gym chain as being “the bad guy” here. It’s not like they’re out to destroy the industry – on the contrary, I believe they’d like to see it expand.
Think about it – the more people who are interested in martial arts, the better off they’ll be. And as their market expands, so it will for the entire industry.
I know it’s not an ideal scenario, but for those school owners who are smart enough to take advantage of the situation, things could eventually turn out in their favor.