By BENN HODAPP, Valley Community Newspapers writer
One of the fastest growing sports in the country is mixed martial arts (MMA). According to many, MMA has overtaken boxing as the preferred fighting sport. People in the Arden-Carmichael area, however, can choose to participate in either at the brand new California Boxing & MMA training facility in Carmichael.
The gym, located at 6422-34 Fair Oaks Blvd., is awaiting final inspection before it can have its grand opening event. In the meantime, however, people interested in training can do so. Gilbert Zaragoza, former professional boxer and owner of the new gym, discussed the process of turning the vacant building into a world-class training facility.
“I was actually looking at a lot across the street from here in the Sam’s Furniture lot, but it would have taken a lot of renovation to get it where we needed it,” Zaragoza said. “Then I heard of this space here and I came in and looked and it was perfect. We didn’t have to do anything as far as renovation goes.”
The facility has been a dream of Zaragoza’s for more than four years and it has finally become a reality for the Bella Vista High School grad. His goal is to open up the world of MMA and boxing to an area that doesn’t have a training facility in the vicinity.
“We cater to everyone,” Zaragoza said. “We teach technique as well as strength and conditioning for people of all ages and skill levels.”
He said that prior knowledge of the sports is not a prerequisite for joining the gym. “Just come in with a willingness to learn,” he said.
The thing that has surprised Zaragoza the most is the number of parents coming in showing interest in signing up their young kids for classes.
One success story involves a kid who was having trouble in school, according to Zaragoza. The child’s father made a deal with his son that he could work out at the gym only after he finished his schoolwork. Since making the deal the child has seen marked improvements at school and he shows up every day enthusiastic about learning at the gym.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about our kids programs so far,” Zaragoza said.
“One of the main reservations that parents have for their kids is that they’re going to get punched in the face in the classes and that’s not the case,” said strength and conditioning instructor Ryan Canup. “They’re not going to come in and get beat up, they’re going to come in and learn the technique and how to train.”
“It’s a family atmosphere when the kids come in,” Zaragoza said. “We make sure that everyone behaves around the kids and that there’s no swearing or anything like that. We want this to be a fun and safe place for kids to come and learn about the sport.”
There are even families training together at the facility.
“Eventually, of course we would love to train a champion here, either in boxing or MMA, but being here and helping people and doing something positive is the thing we’re most happy about,” said Zaragoza.
Pros excited too
As for the training, the gym has five professional strength and conditioning and fighting instructors. The gym is not just a place for kids, however, and experienced fighters have shown excitement about the gym’s opening. The gym’s jiu-jitsu trainer is a professional from Brazil and was described as “world class” by Canup.
The gym features a boxing ring, numerous heavy and speed bags, weight benches, exercise bikes, fighting dummies, wrestling mats and pretty much anything else one would need in order to practice their craft.
Zaragoza began boxing at the age of 14 after falling in love with the sport early in his childhood. In 2005 he was a contestant on the reality show “The Next Great Champ” which was hosted by boxing legend Oscar de la Hoya. Zaragoza finished in third place on the show. Now 37, Zaragoza wants to impart his knowledge and passion onto the next generation.
“I’m still really passionate about the sport of boxing,” he said. “MMA is huge now, though, so I wanted to open a gym that caters to both sports.”
High school coaches interested
Local high schools El Camino and Jesuit have shown interest in having members of their wrestling teams train at the gym in order to get better at their craft. Zaragoza and Canup pointed out that strength and conditioning training can help a player of any sport from baseball to football, so one doesn’t even have to have an interest in boxing or MMA in order to take advantage of the facility.
A grand opening deal is ongoing where people can get unlimited access to the gym for $80 per month. The regular rate will go up to $130 per month, but those who sign up for the special offer will only pay $80 per month for as long as they hold their membership.
The gym is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information you can visit the California Boxing & MMA Facebook Page or by calling the gym at (916) 222-4649.