Longo and Weidman MMA -- LAW MMA for short -- has earned a reputation as a home to champions and top contenders throughout the sport. However, few realize the gym is also open to average Joes and Jills looking to stay in shape. The facility will now show that all are welcome via its new partnership with the web-based reality series “Wimp 2 Warrior.”
Started as a series on YouTube in 2013, “Wimp 2 Warrior” is the creation of Australian trainer Rich Cranny. Advertised as a show about human transformation, the series follows regular people -- or “wimps” -- who join an MMA gym and go through an actual fight camp, with the training culminating in an amateur fight with a fellow “wimp” at the end. The show has grown in reputation and popularity to the point that many major gyms in the sport have formed partnerships with the series. Gyms such as SBG Ireland, Syndicate MMA, Team Oyama, Tristar Gym, El Nino Training Center and now LAW MMA run “Wimp 2 Warrior” programs at their facilities.
“[Wimp 2 Warrior officials] pitched us the idea and they told us a couple of gyms were doing it,” Ray Longo told Sherdog.com. “It seemed like another good avenue to advertise the gym and make some money.” Since the beginning, Longo and his long-time protégé, former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champion Chris Weidman, have worked to keep their gym as a place friendly to athletes of all levels and backgrounds.
“It’s hard to marry world champions, top-10 guys in the gym, and the general population coming in feeling comfortable,” says long-time LAW MMA strength and conditioning coach Tony Ricci. “That’s an environment Ray created, and it’s great. My girlfriend comes here, her sister comes here [and] women who have not worked out before.”
It is why the facility, located in Garden City, New York, was a perfect option for this program. The “Wimps 2 Warriors” program is not a crash course in the life of a fighter but a full 22-week camp that takes a person off the street, trains them to first be a solid athlete and then an amateur fighter. This process, which has been developed by Cranny and series officials over several years, is what appealed to the LAW MMA coaches involved.
“What I liked about it was [that they don’t] just train for six weeks, they train for 22- weeks. You can make a dent in 22-weeks,” said Longo.
Having experienced the rapid pace of being a coach on season six of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the legendary trainer relished the idea of getting time to work with participants and make a meaningful impact. In short, he loves to coach people, not just professional fighters. “My comfort zone is coaching, if it wasn’t I’d be fighting. I don’t know what it is, but I enjoy doing it. I like helping other people accomplish their goals, and in doing so I’m accomplishing my goals,” he said.
Accomplishment of goals is the name of the game for the participants who take part in the program. Unlike most other reality shows, “Wimp 2 Warrior” and LAW MMA will not be offering the training free of charge. Those involved can pay $1600 up front, or smaller monthly payments. Surely not cheap, but in the grand scheme of things, a good deal to train at a top MMA gym.
Along with Longo and Ricci, LAW MMA regulars Jamie Franco (wrestling) UFC veteran Pete Sell and Dave Patton (both handling Brazilian jiu-jitsu) will take on the bulk of the coaching duties. Weidman and other fighters affiliated with the gym may also make occasional appearances.
Training will often occur as early as six in the morning so that those taking part can still meet the responsibilities of their daily lives. The addition of these training sessions won’t affect the gyms usual six-day schedule, nor will it take Longo away from training with Weidman for his rematch with Luke Rockhold at UFC 230.
“It’s not going to affect me at all. That’s why we have other coaches doing stuff,” says Longo. “I’m going to say it will have zero effect on that. And I wouldn’t let it have an effect on that. I know what my priorities are.”
On Sept. 29 the gym had its first set of tryouts, with a second to occur the following week. “We started with 16, and before we even took a step on the mat we had somebody walk out the door. Only one person threw up thus far,” Ricci said.
Although some applicants quit in the early going, many of those remaining actually had combat sports backgrounds and did better than wrestling coach Franco expected. “Today was more than we could ask for,” Franco said. “Everybody except for two people had [prior] training. One of the guys that never had training before was in the military. We thought we were going to get a lot of older, out of shape, people. I don’t think we had any wimps in there today. Real wimps.”
Although Ricci would have preferred individuals that were less prepared, he is happy to help those involved take another step in their athletic endeavors. “What’s nice is we have a starting point of people with multiple backgrounds. So, we’re looking forward to taking the guy who hasn’t really thrown a punch or thrown anything in his life [and help them grow athletically],” he said.
It won’t get any easier after this. “They have eight weeks of just conditioning [to start],” says Ricci. “We’ve got to get them conditioned. Like if Ray wants to show them some skills, and a minute and 30 seconds into it they’re completely tired and sucking wind, nothing is going to work.” A bout at the end is the main goal, so a conditioning base has to be built before they can truly learn how to fight.
“The way the process works is the first eight weeks is really just to get their bodies ready and in shape,” said Franco. “We take a break right around the holiday, then we come back and we actually put them through a fight camp.” The participants will be grouped based on their skill levels, and eventually the pairings for bouts will be made with the same idea in mind.
In the end, the plan is to give participants an experience and enrich their lives. “They say it takes three weeks to break a habit. Twenty-two weeks? That’s pretty cool,” Longo said. “I think that’s the attraction to it, that -- I don’t want to sound cliche -- but if you could just change one life, which I think I’ve done a couple of times, that’s a really good feeling.”
Since several early applicants had combat sports backgrounds, Longo was asked if a legitimate MMA prospect could come from the program and continue on as a fighter in the gym. He responded confidently, “I would think that’s a big possibility.”