The idea of an Ultimate Fighting Championship Gym conjures up images of Herculean men and Amazonian women battling each other in a dimly-lit, gritty cage.
In fact, the first UFC Gym in the Middle East, which opens next month in Business Bay Dubai, has more in common with family-friendly gym chains than a brand associated with a macho fight club.
After the pristine reception area of the 22,000 square feet facility, the first view customers get is of a spacious GX studio for Les Mills group exercises and yoga, which should reassure casual fitness fans and newbies.
But a glance at an image of a striking victory pose by UFC champ Georges St-Pierre plastered on the wall in the foyer, sturdy punchbags to the right, and a 24ft UFC -branded octagonal arena (in which UFC fights are held), explain why this new Mixed Martial Arts training facility might also be what professional UAE athletes have been waiting for.
The Dubai gym – which joins branches in 120 locations in the United States, Australia and Canada – is set to open on April 21.
“We don’t want people to only perceive us as a fight club,” says chief operating officer George Yiasemides during a tour of the gym before its soft launch last Friday.
“We are there for everyone, from children as young as four to fitness enthusiasts and professional fighters.
“We accommodate time-poor families, where the parents can do their workout and the children can learn self-defence skills.”
The burly coaches at the gym might look a little intimidating but are specially trained to lead amateurs and group classes.
In accordance with UAE fitness guidelines, the 10 coaches – who are also available for one-on-one sessions in Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and Boxing – are Level 3 and 4 certified and also hold appropriate ranking in their individual sports.
The gym is divided into seven zones that cater to members’ varied fitness goals.
The group exercise studio can accommodate 40 people for popular body pump, Pilates and spinning classes.
Outside the studio, there is a stretching and accessory workstation that offers a view of the Dubai skyline through wide glass windows.
The other end of the gym houses heavyweight lifting equipment and exercise machines, with dumbbells weighing up to 50kgs neatly stacked along a mirrored wall.
The box master zone is an isolated area with three adjustable, padded boxing stands for personal sessions and functional exercises.
The centrepiece is that impressive octagonal arena, the only one in the Middle East, with meshed walls and a padded surface for safety during sparring sessions.
A 20-metre turf, set up with CrossFit sleds and kettlebells, provides the activity space for members who want to attend Daily Ultimate Training sessions.
The circuit-style group session will allow participants to learn MMA and boxing techniques, as well as conditioning exercises.
Beside that area is the bag rack, with variety of shapes and sizes hanging from a rig for Mauy Thai training and TRX classes.
The K2, a bright red fitness machine with stairs that combines more than 20 workout stations in one, is the assistive zone which helps simulate a state of constant tension that professional boxers face in the ring.
Parents can sign up children as young as four for group boxing and Jiu Jitsu lessons.
The classes will focus on safe techniques, with the youngsters being trained for ambidexterity – with safety always paramount.
“It will be a lot about movement, where they can get their gloves on and do some striking,” says Yiasemides. “We don’t want them to have injuries. What it will do is set them on a path of discipline and teach them respect for their opponents in a sport.”
Yiasemides says there will not be any sugar-laden protein bars in the gym’s cafe, only fresh, healthy bites and bars. Customers will also be able to order fresh juices and protein shakes. The gym also sells UFC gear and merchandise, including training gloves and jerseys.
• The UFC Gym will officially open on April 21 in Bay Square, Building 1, Business Bay. Early bird membership costs Dh349 a month for adults and Dh199 for the youth programme. For details, visit UFC Gym Middle East on Facebook