An Epic failure, but what now for Hong Kong’s MMA family?

Closure of gym highlights sense of community and far outweighs any financial concerns, rather than a California Fitness-style backlash

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 August, 2017, 10:45am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 August, 2017, 6:13pm

When Hong Kong’s Epic MMA Club closed its doors this week, the sense of loss was about so much more than the money.

Rather than a California Fitness-style backlash, many Epic members were more concerned about their fitness ‘family’ being torn apart.

There’s something more than just simply exercise going on here. You can see it when you watch people train together, and you can witness it as the professionals gather before and after a fight. There’s a distinct sense that experiences, growth and life are being shared.

The whispers that something wasn’t quite right at Epic started last Monday night, and the doors were by the next day well and truly bolted.

What quickly became apparent was the loss of a sense of community far outweighed any financial concerns.

The gym’s most famous product had been the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) Alberto Mina, the Brazilian who fine-tuned himself in Hong Kong and established an impressive 3-0 record in the world’s pre-eminent MMA outfit before heading to live and train in California to be closer to the action with the Las Vegas-based organisation.

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During his years at Epic, the affable Mina gathered around him a loyal band of students and started to help shape an emerging generation of MMA fighters. The news, he said, had left his heart broken.

“Epic made my dream come true – today I fight for the UFC,” Mina told the Post. “A great group of people worked hard during more than five years to educate the Hong Kong community about mixed martial arts and wellness. To me Epic was and always will be family.”

By pure chance, on the same day that Epic closed, the UFC’s featherweight world champion Max Holloway was in town as the promotional push is amped up before the organisation’s next two Asian dates – at Japan’s Saitama Super Arena on September 23 and then Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena on November 25.

Working those particular narratives was Holloway’s main concern on his week travelling through Asia but, as the 25-year-old Hawaiian tucked in to an impressive looking fried chicken burger at the Flying Pig in Sai Ying Pun – and on being informed about what had been going on across the previous 24 hours in Hong Kong – Holloway opened up about his own experiences in training, and how he had already started to pass on his passion for martial arts to his five-year-old son, Rush.

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For Holloway, the fascination started with kick-boxing in high school and he was a fully formed MMA professional by the time he was 19.

His advice for those from Epic feeling the pain was to look to the training they had already started because, he believes, martial arts can help you cope with life, and its disappointments, as they have done down through the centuries.

“The thing that mixed martial arts teaches you about life is that it’s all about building a foundation. Together,” said Holloway.

“It’s like if I said let’s go and build a house but we are going to start with the second floor. It just doesn’t happen. Like, I got my son into jiu-jitsu and he loves it.

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“These traditional martial arts are the best place to start because they teach discipline. They show you how to behave. That’s something you can take out into your life.”

Holloway says martial arts are also already strengthening the bond he has with his son – and it’s producing some surprising results.

“In my last fight against Jose Aldo [where Holloway captured his world title] I actually did a move that I watched my son do in training. It’s called the bulldozer,” he said.

“I called my son’s coach afterwards and said ‘Bro, did you see the bulldozer I did on Aldo?’ So my son helped me win the title.

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“That’s one of the great things about martial arts. You’re always learning something new, and you learn how in life everyone has a different perspective, and different ways to do things.

“If like if I pointed you towards a tree and said let’s go climb that tree. You might go straight up the branches and I might just go and get myself a ladder.

“It’s not so much where you train, but the people you are surrounded by. I won my first four fights training out of a garage.

“So my advice to those people [who have lost their Epic memberships] is just to keep looking for what’s best for you and I think you’ll find the right people. In martial arts, that just seems to come naturally.”