MMA Business Marketing Tips For New Gym Owners

One the complaints I often get is that I focus too much on traditional martial arts business advice. Well, tmma business marketing tipsoday I thought I’d reach across the aisle, as it were, and take some time this week to provide some MMA business marketing tips for those of you who are new to the industry and opening mixed martial arts gyms and studios.

I’ve seen plenty of MMA gyms and studios fail miserably, and I’ve experimented with marketing adult MMA classes in my own studios and learned a few things along the way. Here are a few lessons I’ve picked up that might help you in launching and growing an MMA gym.

Lesson #1: Know Your Real Market

If you think your real market is 20-something males with a penchant for hard contact, you’re not totally wrong… it’s just that those folks aren’t going to pay your rent. Your real market(s) are professionals and families; these are the folks who have money to spend and who will pay your bills. Most aren’t interested in getting beat up on a weekly basis, but they do want to train for fun and maybe to get in shape or to learn a little self-defense. Learn to serve this clientele and you will be financially stable for life.

Also, this means you need to separate your fighters from your recreationists. Hold separate training classes (fight team training) for your hardcore people, and have classes that are less intense for your standard clients. You’ll experience higher retention this way, and end up with a larger overall pool of students to draw from for your fight team.

Lesson #2: Run A Professional Gym

If you run a dungeon dojo, you are going to attract gym rats and deadbeats. Gym rats and deadbeats do not pay the bills. If anything, they tend to chase away your more stable and affluent clients.

Besides, regardless of the economic or social background of the typical MMA enthusiast, no one wants to workout in a dirty, run down gym. Most people want clean mats (no staph or ringworm), a bright and well-lit training area, ample well-kept equipment (enough bags, mitts, and pads to go around, and no busted up gear), and training partners who aren’t trying to take their head off at every opportunity.

In other words, they want to work out in a professional environment. So, keep your place clean and keep your equipment in good repair. Paint and polish when things get dingy looking, and replace old gear when it’s gets ugly and damaged. Disinfect your mats, and use Odoban or a good air ionizer to handle the “gym smell” that comes from teaching classes where people sweat a lot.

And, make all your students maintain good hygeine as well; anyone comes into your classes with gear or clothing that smells like last week’s trash, make them change and tell them not to come to class like that again. Be professional, and demand it from your students. You’ll keep a lot more members that way.

Lesson #3: Branch Out

There are other markets besides competition MMA and jiu-jitsu. There’s a fitness market, a kid’s market, a self-defense market, and even a one-on-one personal training market (there are people who prefer to learn that way, and they pay well for it). All these markets are a potential opportunity to increase your income.

So, instead of just focusing on training fighters, branch out. And, don’t worry about what other people will say or think; those bozos aren’t paying your bills, your customers are.

Just because you teach a fitness class or teach kids, it doesn’t make your gym any less legit. It just means that you’re smart enough to realize the better businessman can afford better facilities, attract more clients, and ultimately be more successful at everything they do (which includes competition). Run your gym in the way that benefits you the most, and if that means branching out into other markets in order to be more successful financially, do it to please yourself.

Lesson #4: Always Be Marketing

This is perhaps the most important lesson of all. Always be marketing.

  • Carry business cards and guest passes with you all the time, wear your school shirts and hand them out when people ask about your business.
  • Put out take ones and door hangers every single week.
  • Make sure your website ranks well in Google, and put a lead capture form on it with a great offer that encourages people to register for a free trial class.
  • Have a nice looking Facebook business page and post about your students daily, linking back to your free offer on your site in at least half of your posts.
  • Encourage referrals with outstanding customer service and referral reward programs.
  • Call all your leads the same day, preferably as soon as you get them.

Always be marketing.

Lesson #5: Beware Of Pie-In-The-Sky Promises

There are a lot of people jumping on the MMA bandwagon who are offering to show you how to make millions teaching MMA. Some are good and know what they’re talking about… and some, not so much.

What I suggest to you is that you avoid being taken in by pie-in-the-sky promises of fortune and fame, and instead do your due diligence. First, look at the martial arts consultant‘s background. Have they run successful studios? For how long? And, does the type of studio they run look like the type of studio you want to run?

Second, look at their track record. Have they been able to teach other people to do the same? There are a lot of people who are successful in this industry, but few have organized that information into a workable system, and even fewer can reproduce their own results in others.

Also, look at the cost. Is it worth it to pay what they’re asking, or could you just get the same information from somewhere else (even from multiple places) at a lower cost? If most of your profits are going to be eaten up each month with consulting and license fees, it’s a bust no matter how you look at it. I’ve seen this many times; avoid falling into this trap.

Finally, are they just selling name recognition, or a real system for success? If you’re just going with someone’s business system because they are a big name, you’re being played for a fool. Many instructors have been sucked into financial agreements that cost them a ton of money, but gave little if any return financially due to the attraction of associating with a big name. Always go with substance instead of name recognition.

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Hopefully, these tips will help your MMA gym thrive when others are falling by the wayside. And remember, the tips I provide above are just a starting point. Above all, remember to make decisions that are fiscally sound. Stick to a budget, and read my martial arts business manual so you’ll know exactly what that means.

I wish you the best of success in you new business. Work hard and spend smart, and chances are good that your success in your MMA business will last.


  1. Dana Caffrey on November 23, 2012 at 4:48 am

    Putting up any business, no matter how big or small it is, you should have thoroughly studied it and it’s really your passion. When you put up a business just because it’s “IN,” more often than not, your business will fail. So study everything.

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