New Hartlepool mixed martial arts gym hoping to stage local fight shows and produce future UFC fighters

A new club dedicated to teaching mixed martial arts in Hartlepool has got off to a strong start.

Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 10:41 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 10:41 am

The Hartlepool MMA launched at The Dodgeball Centre around a month ago and is believed to be the first MMA gym in the town.

Its lead instructor Russell Phillips fought professionally in televised bouts and fight shows before moving to Hartlepool from the south.

In just a few weeks, around 30 members aged from five to over 50, have joined to learn one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

Russell Phillps (back row second left) with members of Hartlepool MMA.

Russ is hopeful of putting on local fight shows and producing fighters for UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), the world's leading MMA organisation.

He said: “I had been thinking of doing this for a while and seeing lots of kids outside shops on the streets.

"There didn’t seem to be a lot for them to do and thought MMA would be perfect.

"I had 160 responses overnight to a post on social media and we have pretty much got full classes now.”

Russell puts young members through their paces in the gym.

Mixed martial arts, sometimes referred to as cage fighting, incorporates techniques from various different combat sports.

Russell, 42, a black belt 3rd dan in kickboxing, has his own licensed and accredited style named Dongmul, which is a hybrid of Lau gar kickboxing, adapted to feature jujitsu, wrestling, aikido, and Kempo.

He previously competed in the UK MMA league, UCMMA, and appeared on a reality fight show called Born to Fight where he trained under some of the biggest names and at some of the biggest and best gyms in the UK.

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Russell (right) during his professional fighting days.

Three different age groups – kids, youth and adults – train at the dodgeball centre in Winterbottom Avenue every Monday and Wednesday evenings.

Russell, who runs the club with his partner Lisa Hume, added: "MMA is one of the biggest sports in the country, it’s growing massively in popularity with UFC.

"The guys coming to us are young enough to achieve that goal, so hopefully we can produce some UFC fighters.”

Russ also aims to use his contacts in the sport to help members to enter shows locally and further afield.

“We’re also hoping to get our own place where we can put a cage and ring and do our own Hartlepool fight shows,” he said.