A new gym downtown is teaching mixed martial arts, as well classes for staying in shape or training for competition.
Elite Sports Academy, 127 1/2 S. Washington St., has been open about a month and is to host a grand opening in May or June.
The gym is drawing people from Marion, Findlay, Willard, Fostoria and Fremont, as well as the Tiffin area.
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Professional fighter and instructor Rick Fitch works with a female student at Elite Sports Academy gym, 127 1/2 S. Washington St.
"It's close to a 100-mile radius," said professional fighter Rick Fitch. "One guy was driving from near Columbus."
"We're getting to be a pretty well-known gym for this stuff," said Chad Bauer, who also teaches classes.
"We'll get you in shape here. We'll make people work in here."
The gym is equipped with a cage, heavy bags, gloves and a variety of other equipment.
Students from Heidelberg and Tiffin universities train there, as well as high school students interested in training for future fights. They must be at least 18 to compete.
Students work up to live sparring.
"We also teach discipline here, too," Bauer said. "They're not allowed to take the fighting outside the gym."
The gym is the next step for Fitch, who said he has been training out of his garage since 2004.
He is the head instructor. Other pros are Thomas Russell and Allan Weikert, who teach mixed martial arts, while Bauer teaches boxing, Ian Rammel teaches wrestling to young children and Nick Wiesch teaches shotokan karate.
Classes are available for all ages - from 4 to 40-plus.
The gym also has classes for women called female aerobic self-defense training.
"We're trying to give kids something new to do," Bauer said. "Our classes are cheap enough where they can get really good training. We keep it geared toward the town and kids that don't have much money. We try to help them out."
Fitch said he possibly would like to create a nonprofit organization in the future, as well as expand into the two upper floors of the building.
"Why not try to bring something back into the downtown?" Bauer said.
Some of the young men - amateurs and professionals - train amateurs in mixed martial arts for cage fighting competitions. "Mixed" means a combination of boxing, kick boxing, muay thai and other forms of fighting.
"We try to train people to be well rounded and not train in just one martial art," Fitch said. "We try to put it all together."
The best become members of the Elite Fight Team, sponsored by the gym, which travels to competitions in and around Ohio.
"The guys compete in amateur and professional fights," he said. "We have fighters who travel and compete all over Ohio and Chicago and the area."
The team has five professionals and 25-30 amateurs, who compete for title belts in different weight classes.
"We're getting quite a few people involved with it," Fitch said. "We're really big on the fighting aspect of it, but we're also into the cardio aspect."
The next cage fight, to be hosted by the Elite Fight Team May 29 at Black Swamp Volleyball center, is to feature 15-17 fights, including two or three title fights. Tickets prices range from $20-$30.
For tickets or more information on the gym or fights, call Fitch at (419) 618-0096 or Quik Shop Tattoo, which is located in the same building.
Anyone interested in learning more or attending classes at the gym should call (419) 618-0096 or (419) 939-3484.
People may watch classes or participate for two days as a free trial. Cost of classes generally is $30 a month.