By Ramzey Prentiss
If you’ve ever seen an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fight on the big screen or in person, then you’ve most likely been in awe of the competitors’ impressive level of athleticism. These fighters’ bodies are toned, muscular, and conditioned to tip-top shape — an inspiration even if cage fighting is not your thing. Lucky for us, UFC Gym allows regular fitness-goers the chance to learn the training methods that condition many of the top UFC fighters in the world. Through a full range of fitness classes, as well as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training, UFC Gym is the first time the fitness world and the world of MMA have combined. And the newest UFC Gym location is right here in NYC: UFC Gym NYC Soho, adding to an already successful location in the Financial District. Ramzey Prentiss, co-founder and trainer at the new Soho gym, talks about his love for UFC training — and why everyone is welcome.
Tell our readers about UFC Soho. What is it like, and what does UFC training entail?
UFC Gym NYC SoHo is first and foremost a fitness facility. Our goal is to help people reach their health goals in a way that is different and effective. People don't just join a gym when they join UFC Gym, they become part of a family and community. We “Train Different" by using MMA, boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and many other types of martial arts, and we use these tools to bring the training techniques of elite UFC athletes (some of the best athletes in the world!) to the mainstream. We train like a UFC fighter, without the contact. Our fitness formula attracts a variety of people — our members include men, women, and children of all ages.
How did you get your start in the UFC world?
I started my journey to the UFC like most people who wound up here. At the age of 13, I wasn't the typical football/baseball kind of kid, so I got into karate and kickboxing. UFC really didn't even exist yet, but I was already ready for it. As I grew up I got into Boxing, BJJ, and Muay Thai, and then UFC entered into my life. After college it was a no brainer, as a huge fan of the sport, to get into the UFC world on the professional side. I fell in love with the fitness side of it, and the incredible workouts that come with training like a UFC fighter. I currently co-own 3 UFC Gyms, and love coming to work everyday.
Is the gym meant for both recreational and competitive training?
UFC Gym is all about fitness and getting in shape. Most people come to get a workout, and then learn a new skill along the way as a bonus. There’s a small group of people who are here to take their craft to the next level and become competitors, and with a staff of professional and amateur fighters, this group can take it as far as they like.
What are the UFC rules in the ring?
The rules of the ring are all just like any other sport — they are designed to keep the fighters as safe as possible and avoid any extreme injuries. Much like the rules of the NFL or MLB, the athletes’ health is first and foremost.
It is such a violent sport - does that ever bother you? How do you work around the violence?
I don't feel UFC is that violent, at all. The amount of injuries that come out of this sport versus any other sport is pretty low. Like I said before, the rules are designed to protect the fighter. The amount of health screens the fighters have to go through before and after each fight is pretty intense. Once a person is a little familiar with the MMA world, they start to understand is it an amazing sport and these athletes are just performing at such a high level.
How is the gym separate from the violence of the sport itself?
We are bringing the workouts, work ethic, and lifestyle of these fighters to everyone without the fights. A person can be a member here for 5 years, and never wind up in the Octagon at all. Our classes are designed to be just you and your punching bag, or you and your kettle bell. The only fight you will have here is which class you want to take next, and which is your favorite.
Who do you think would do well coming to UFC Soho to train?
UFC Gym is for everyone. People get wrapped up into our community and family feel —who knows, your best friend might already be here and you haven't met him/her yet.
Any inspiring stories?
This is my favorite part about what UFC Gym does - we are here to change lives. Almost every day we have someone tell us small accomplishments like "I lost that 5 pounds" or "I finally got my roundhouse kick down." Then there are those amazing stories of us completely changing someone's life in a way we didn't know we could. We had a member, Angela Graef, “Ange” as we like to call her, basically come straight to our gym off the plane from Europe, no family no friends, just came to NY for work. She became so close to the staff and the life in the gym it was breathtaking. She is now 60 lbs lighter, and watching the fights every weekend with the staff and other members religiously.
Here is her story in her words: “I arrived in NYC April 2013 to take up a 2-year post. My last night in London a friend asked what I wanted to achieve in New York. My response was ... To become a ninja. As luck and serendipity would have it, a flyer arrived through my door announcing the grand opening of the John Street UFC Gym. I signed up for one of the introductory classes and walked in full of trepidation. I was 45 years old and 230 lbs. And scared. But the guys made me feel totally at ease. I signed up for my membership, and Dom gave me my complimentary PT with Brian Jackson. And there my journey began.
My first class was one of Rafael's boxing classes and it nearly killed me. It was one of the toughest hours of my life, and I left feeling really disheartened. But over the next 15 months I trained regularly with Brian and was introduced to a whole new world of boxing, kickboxing, TRX, sleds, ball slams, sprawls, and eventually a rugged maniac obstacle course. I slowly picked up the confidence and fitness to do bag classes, and the weight started to come off. The guys encouraged me to try advanced, so I said, ‘What the heck!’ and started MMA and BJJ classes. Today, I'm 170 lbs and sparring and rolling with guys younger than my son.
For me, it's not just about the weight loss or physical improvement. The gym, and being kind of adopted by the guys, has changed my life. It's given me confidence, great friendships, a passion, and most of all, some of the best fun I've ever had. And there have been a few ninja moments. I hope everyone that comes through the door is as inspired as I have been."
Wow, go Ange! So UFC Gym really is for everyone.
My advice is that everyone, no matter where you are, should come into your local UFC Gym and experience our Train Different approach to fitness. We promise to make it an exciting one.
Ramzey Prentiss is a co-founder and trainer at UFC Gym NYC Soho. In 2005, with over ten years experience in the fitness industry and a B.S. in Marketing from Manhattan College, Ramzey played an active role in the start of a boxing gym in Stamford, Connecticut. Ramzey didn’t stop there, he felt it was important to go a step further with his knowledge in the ever-changing health field, and attained his Emergency Medical Technician Certification in 2007. He continues to expand his knowledge by training with the area’s top professionals, absorbing and sharing the latest techniques and training tips. Part of what makes Ramzey a valued business partner in the fitness industry is his active role in the ‘non‐business’ side of the ‘business’. He has been practicing various martial arts and boxing since the age of 12, is a nationally ranked grappler, and currently is an amateur competitor in Boxing And Muay Thai.