Photo credit: Amanda Shulman
On a Wednesday night in the Recreation Center beyond the basketball courts, you’ll find a dozen or more students grappling on blue mats. It may be a strange sight to those shooting hoops or running on the track, but to these self-proclaimed artists, it’s just another day in the life of QU’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Club.
The club was started by senior Anthony Grina and sophomores Joey LoRusso and Kirk Medrzychowski last year when Grina created the Facebook group “QU MMA.” The creation of the club was brought on by the lack of sparring opportunities in Quinnipiac’s aerobics classes. These classes feature conditioning and mostly non-contact drills that may only be sufficient in training a beginner.
“Kids don’t really have a chance to utilize what they’re learning in those classes,” Grina said. “They just learn the techniques but they really don’t get to apply them, and that’s the biggest part of learning. A very famous expression is, ‘The bag doesn’t hit back.’”
During a meeting, which can stretch anywhere from one to three hours, students spar in different styles of combat, including kickboxing, boxing, wrestling and jujitsu. Around 10 to 20 students show up depending on which night meetings are held.
Although Grina was the initial creator of the group, he believes the knowledge that has come from different students’ fighting backgrounds is the true reason why the club has flourished.
“We don’t have a teacher or an instructor,” he said. “This group was formed so we could help each other out… no one is really trying to go on an ego trip and punch everyone in the face or prove dominance. Everyone is just trying to learn from each other.”
Fighters are strongly encouraged to bring mouthguards, gloves, and protective cups for safety reasons.
“A lot of people associate mixed martial arts and fighting as being a ruthless and barbaric sport,” Grina said. “However, that’s far from the case. In fact, mixed martial arts has been proven to be statistically safer than figure skating.”
The Facebook group grew though word of mouth, according to Grina, and now has 68 members. This semester alone the club has expanded by 30 members, and is currently home to students of all skill levels, ages and weight classes. Presently, the club is not officially sponsored by Quinnipiac, mainly due to the time constraints of the students involved.
“We already practice when we want so we don’t really find the need to actually be official unless we got some kind of benefit from it,” Grina said. “We really don’t see any reward for the paperwork.”
Mixed martial arts is one of the fastest growing sports in America, evidenced by the increase of pay-per-view buy rates for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events over the past five years. The rise in popularity of cable television programs like “The Ultimate Fighter,” a reality TV show where the winning contestant gets a multi-fight contract in the UFC, has given the sport more mainstream appeal.
The MMA Club is currently encouraging any students, both male and female, interested in fighting to join the “QU MMA” Facebook group to get weekly updates of the meeting times and location.
The club is also available to coach any interested female member one-on-one.