Building an MMA gym
On the face of it, building an MMA or any combat sports gym should be fairly simple as there is not a huge amount of equipment required, at least say in comparison to a leisure centre style affair with row upon row of cardio or weights machines, however it’s all a question of scale.
Whether its a home gym or you are building or perhaps your first full time gym for your club the prinicples are all the same so we’ll assume you have enough space for a range of equipment and will have at least half a dozen people training there at any one time. If its a home gym the task is essentially the same just down size the advice!
After you have worked out your space then the floor will be the first major issue.
Mats are going to be a big deal and probably the big spend. If you have enough room for full sparring and the headroom for throws then you are going to need 40mm mats. The advantage of the thicker mats is they will allow for throws, takedowns and falls alongside just overall better protection. The downside of 40mm mats is simply the price. A really good deal on these will be around £22-25 pounds per 1x1m mat and to have a decent sparring space you will need at least 16 but usually 20+. Jigsaw mats have the advantage of being easy to take up and down with relative ease and can either be left down or taken up after every training session but the disadvantage of being weak and will age fast. A mat cover will help preserve them but will add to costs.
If you chose to go with 20mm mats it may be wise to consider using some form of underlay. The advantage of an underlay is it will help cushion the mats further and avoid injuries to elbows etc when grappling. 20mm mats are ok for BJJ style grappling or as a light cushioning for stand up sparring where knockdowns may happen on occasion however this is not the preferred outcome (for example as opposed to say for Judo or wrestling)
After mats then it’s all going to depend on what you martial arts styles consist of. For MMA we must assume at least some striking so a good quality heavy bag or two will be required. If you are only to buy one then 6ft is a must. The reason for this is simply versatility. A 6 foot bag can be used for boxing, kick boxing, clinch and even un-hooking it and using it on the floor to practice movement drills. The REVGEAR 6ft bag is a classic, American made and very tough. Revgear also have a range of bags designed for floor work which could maybe replace the 6ft bag if your orientation is more towards grappling than striking.
For a larger gym a range of bags is going to be necessary. I would recommend at least one 6ft, 4ft, Mushroom or Tear drop bag and a floor to ceiling ball as an absolute minimum. Bags always raise the question of how to hang them. If you are fortunate enough to have very strong beams then you may be able to hang a bag using just chains however with most modern buildings you will need a bracket and importantly the correct fittings. The fittings you can purchase in the likes of B&Q are soft and often break on fitting. Try and get hold of stronger versions used in construction. Brackets vary greatly in price and often if you can find a local welder he will construct you something of a higher quality and at a better price than those you can buy.
Pads and Shields
Without a doubt a set of Thai pads, kick shield and some focus mits will be essential. IF you have classes then several sets more than likely needed. Most companies including ours will give at least a one off trade discount for a decent bulk purchase so consider buying enough to last you a while maybe even sell any excess to your students. Avoid buying cheap poor quality items as you will find yourself replacing them within a couple of months of purchase or for the sake of a few extra quid at the start, soldiering on with shoddy equipment for many months which can be an injury risk for you and your students. In Martial Arts the adage buy cheap, buy twice can often be three, four or five times compared to one could purchase!
So you have mats, heavy bags and pads. What else? Well a couple of kettlebells will allow a decent range of dynamic weights exercises and if you have the space and the budget maybe an Olympic bar and 100kg of free weights will certainly be useful. Olympics rings are versitile, cheap and easy to fix up whilst battle ropes if you have the space are now ever popular in martial arts gyms.