Hong Kong’s Epic MMA Club shuts down leaving members in shock after liquidators called in

After high-end mixed martial arts club where boxing legend Manny Pacquiao trained shutters its Hong Kong gyms, members collect belongings and say they’ll miss the Epic community as they fill in liquidators’ claim forms

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2017, 10:49am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 2:01pm

Epic MMA Club, Hong Kong’s first high-end mixed martial arts club, has closed its doors, leaving hundreds of members potentially out of pocket.

A notice from liquidators for Epic posted on Monday in a Facebook group chat said the company had gone into liquidation. The club’s operations director, Joey Lee, said by email the decision to cease operations “came about very suddenly”.

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Clark Wang, who was among Epic members picking up their belongings from one of its three Central gyms on Tuesday – there is another Epic gym in Tung Chung – said: “We are all quite shocked. I trained last night from 6.30-7.30pm and when I got home at 8.30pm my WhatsApp lit up with messages.”

Wang, a member for almost five years, added: “It’s just really disappointing. The biggest blow is the loss of community.”

It was a comment fellow members echoed.

Que Dang said: “It’s the loss of community, not the loss of money, that’s most upsetting.” He speculated rising rents had played a part in the club’s closure, saying: “I don’t know the full story here at Epic but I do understand what rental prices are like and a place like this in Central ... well, it’s got to be a huge amount.”

Leigh Coates, who was holidaying in Britain when she heard the news, said by email: “It’s a very sad day for all us Epic orphans. Where do we go now? Our community is so strong.”

Even though members stand to lose money, the mood was relaxed as Wang and others filed into the gym on Queen’s Road Central, where liquidators’ staff handed out forms for members to file financial claims against Epic. A source said the club had between 700 and 800 members.

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Coates, who signed up for an annual membership promotion in April, said: “I’m not sure if I will lose my money. I need to speak with my credit card company to find out.”

Voon Lee, a member since 2013, said he did not have an annual contract, as he had “heard rumblings’ of financial difficulties. “I was training here yesterday and almost signed up my young daughter for summer classes but at the last minute didn’t pay for them,” Lee said.

Earlier Shu Lee, a member for three years, said: “It’s a dark time.”

On Facebook, another member wrote: “I don’t care about money, just give me back my training :@ so depressed!! #epiccloseddown #notrainingtoday

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Epic launched in Hong Kong in 2012 offering an alternative to traditional fitness classes. It specialised in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai boxing, boxing, yoga, anti-gravity fitness and cross fitness and hosted top athletes in those fields, including legendary Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao in 2014.

The club’s most high-profile trainer and fighter, Alberto Mina, said his heart was broken because Epic had made his dream come true – competing in the world-renowned Ultimate Fighting Championship.

“I woke up in the morning and I have more than 120 text messages saying about the liquidation. That broke my heart,” said Mina, who is now living and training in Los Angeles.

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Coates, who represented Hong Kong three times at the Asia Crossfit Championships (last year she placed first for Asia in her age category), said: “Epic coaches helped me reach the level of athlete I am today and for that I’m eternally grateful.”

Lee, the operations director, said Epic’s co-founder, American businessman Kevin Fialko, had no comment for reporters at this time.

“I’m not even sure where he [Fialko] is at this point,” said Lee, who is holidaying in Vancouver. “Somewhere in the US I believe.”

Lee said Epic had been struggling to break even since it opened.

“Kevin Fialko has been supporting it for five years and has finally called it quits. The decision came about very suddenly and after months of trying to get investors in to relocate to a new location, it has come to a point of no return.

“Upon the appointment of [liquidators] RSM to handle the closure we had to shut the businesses immediately and were not at this point able to salvage any locations,” said Lee.

Lee said about 40 employees had been given notice.

Epic’s website has been shut down, and its Facebook and Twitter accounts closed.

Epic MMA Club is not the first Hong Kong fitness chain to run into trouble. In 2016, a Hong Kong court ordered the winding up of the parent company of shuttered gym chain California Fitness after the group failed to pay off the debt owed to a renovation company. Its closure affected about 64,000 members and 700 employees.