Want to Manage an MMA Gym?
With the growing popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as a sport, more and more people are looking for ways to establish careers in the MMA business. Scott McKendry found his way in by becoming the general manager of the Team Quest gym in Portland, Oregon. Team Quest is the one-time home of many MMA champions and contenders, including Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Matt Lindland, Nathan Quarry, Chris Leben and Chael Sonnen.
So, how does one go about becoming the general manager of a world famous MMA gym?
Scott McKendry began at Team Quest as a student in 2005. The high impact and intense contact of MMA was nothing new for the former professional rugby player. His days of representing the Canadian national team behind him, McKendry began his MMA training with the goal of becoming a police officer.
Well known MMA coach Robert Follis, who was general manager of Team Quest at that time, invited McKendry into the Team Quest Instructor’s Course. While McKendry was still working to complete the TQIC, the general manager position became available.
McKendry shared how he made the decision to take the job:
I was working in Salem, Oregon, designing high-end counter tops using AutoCAD, while living in Portland. The commute was almost two hours each day, there and back. On top of that, I was also training at Team Quest each night while going through the TQIC program. Half way through the course, Matt and Robert asked me if I had any aspirations to fight professionally. My answer was no. I had competed in sports at a high level and understood what sacrifices and hard work it takes to get to that level. I was more focused on a career and settling down and starting a family with my newly married wife. That actually helped Matt and Robert make the decision to offer me the job, as you can’t manage a gym while having aspirations to become a professional fighter. The next day at work, my cell phone rang and it was Matt asking if I could start the following week. I gave the granite company my two weeks notice and started working for Team Quest.
Actually learning how to manage a gym happened on the job and for McKendry is has been both challenging and rewarding:
In reality, there is never a typical day at the gym. Every day is completely different from the next and that’s what keeps me excited to go to work each day. My duties include, and are not limited to: overall brand management, gym licensing, website management, updating social media, marketing and advertising, billing and collections, scheduling classes, scheduling coaches, planning gym events, enrolling new students, coaching classes if a coach is absent and running the TQIC program.
Juggling a variety of things is a constant theme for a gym manager, whether it is the various business aspects or dealing with the various populations in an MMA gym. Team Quest is not just a gym for professional fighters; it also services amateur fighters and regular working people who just want a good, fun workout. From a marketing standpoint it can be challenging to maintain an atmosphere a stay-at-home mother will find as appealing as an aspiring professional fighter, explains McKendry:
The biggest challenge overall is keeping the members, staff and coaches happy and motivated in a gym that balances between a family-friendly atmosphere while having a reputation as being home for one of the most feared fight teams in the world. The different personalities call for different managing styles. You have to keep people’s goals in mind and make them feel important. If you keep their best interests in mind, it makes it easy to help them see the value in what the gym has to offer.
Having people skills and an ability to communicate are a definite strength when it comes to successfully managing a gym. MMA or not, a gym’s business is based in customer service and customers need to feel heard. While one would imagine fighters present the biggest challenge in terms of personality, in McKendry’s experience it has proven to be otherwise. McKendry says:
The fighters at the gym are very easy to work with. For the most part they are all humble and respectful. It’s the people who want to be a professional fighter, but are not willing to put in the hard work and dedication to make it a lifestyle who are challenging. Fighters have big egos and are pride fueled, if you can command their respect while acknowledging their accomplishments, it’s like managing anyone else. If you try and boss them around and make them feel insignificant, it makes working with them a difficult process. The same can be said for regular patrons of any gym or business.
All of the work is made worthwhile by the accomplishments of the fighters and the achievements of the student body. To McKendry that is where he finds validation in his career and in his own achievements.
What is most rewarding? “Seeing people lose weight in the hundreds of pounds, gaining confidence to overcome fears and most importantly being recognized as a professional for a world class training facility,” says McKendry.
As MMA continues to grow, it is possible people seeking careers in the business may need to come from more traditional educations, but MMA gyms for the most part will likely remain private gyms run by individual fighters or teams. At present, a passion and firsthand knowledge of the product and client count for more than a degree in business. McKendry also shares what he has learned through the MMA Management course he teaches online through Sports Management Worldwide.
What are McKendry’s top three pieces of advice for a gym manager?
- Breathe. It will be chaotic and seem like the whole world is coming to an end at times, but no matter what, the challenges will be met and overcome with persistence and patience.
- Take the high road. No matter how rude someone may be to you, always act like a professional and act accordingly.
- Turn your phone off at night. At the end of the day, it’s just a job. Don’t carry your frustrations and challenges from the gym home with you to your family or friends. You can call people back in the morning, your inbox will always be full and things that seem like it’s a matter are life or death are very rarely ever that in business.
To learn more about Team Quest, visit their website - www.tqmma.com.