UFC Gym is set up for world expansion in a very aggressive way.
The fitness franchise, a 50/50 partnership between New Evolution Ventures (NeV) and The UFC, has grown to over 150 locations since its inception in 2009, and can now be found in over 15 countries worldwide. Taking into account all locations sold and in development, there will be a total of 500-plus locations across the world.
But if you ask Adam Sedlack, the president of UFC GYM, if world expansion is the goal — he’ll say domination is more like it. “I think we’re in an incredible position to adapt as needed, to react as needed and provide a unique value proposition that other gyms just can’t offer,” he said.
Aside from its passionate and energetic team, UFC GYM is positioned competitively for a number of reasons, the first and foremost being its portfolio including three unique franchising opportunities. The first, UFC GYM Signature, occupies 25,000 to 75,000 square feet or more and offers a wide variety of group, specialty and fitness offerings such as boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, kid’s programming and Daily Ultimate Training. There are both corporate-owned and franchised Signature locations.
A smaller scale is UFC GYM’s Core model, a paired down version of the brand’s Signature clubs that range between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet. Solely a franchise model, Core has the same look and feel of the Signature clubs, but with more streamlined group fitness offerings and a lower point of entry for franchisees. This often fits well in tight urban markets in mature cities around the world.
And this November, UFC GYM announced a third franchise concept: CLASS by UFC GYM. The boutique model centers around two unique classes — BOX and HIIT — and ranges in size between 2,500 and 3,500 square feet. The concept offers a lower entry point for interested franchisees, at approximately $100,000 to $150,000. CLASS combines technology, state-of-the-art programming and high-quality customer service, putting a modern twist on UFC GYM’s classic offerings — while leveraging the world’s fastest growing sports brand, The UFC.
Throw this new concept into the mix with UFC GYM’s Signature and Core offerings, paired with the powerhouse backing of NeV and The UFC, and you have a recipe for world domination.
That recipe begins with a strong brand identity. From the beginning, UFC GYM’s mission has been to help members overcome their “personal fight,” whether that’s weight loss, endurance training, building more confidence or recovering from an injury.
“UFC GYM brings a purpose to why people workout and why they get involved with fitness,” said Sedlack. “Somebody is always a little bit more empowered than when they initially walked through our door. We strive to create a sense of community and a fun environment – everyone is welcome here.”
Member Jill Hazen is a great example. In 2012, after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the 63-year-old was homebound and depressed — until her son encouraged her to join UFC GYM. “I had a very negative outlook at first,” said Hazen. “But then I started going and thought, hey, maybe I can do this.”
Eventually, Hazen progressed to working out with a trainer, Paul Leech, who encouraged her to push outside her comfort zones. “Paul has allowed me … to get my disability out of the way,” she said.
A year later, Hazen’s doctor has taken her off four of five medications, and she claims her quality of life has improved significantly.
According to Jennifer Bulger, the senior vice president of marketing for UFC GYM, it’s stories like Hazen’s that show the real value and power of the UFC GYM brand. “We provide such an incredible opportunity for people of all fitness levels to come and workout together as a community that’s really inspiring,” she said. “We empower the fighting spirit in each and every person, and I think there’s a lot to be said about any brand that truly cares about each member as an individual.”
This mission is bolstered by The UFC — a $4 billion-plus organization that provides strategic backing to UFC GYM. The brand’s franchisees benefit from this partnership, in addition to education, turn-key marketing, technological solutions, brand integration and ongoing support.
This combination of factors has led to UFC GYM attracting partners like Alex Rodriguez, who invested in UFC GYM Kendall — a Signature club — in Miami, Florida, in March 2017. The retired baseball player also bought the rights to South Florida, with plans to open eight or more Signature locations.
“I saw UFC GYM as one of the most growing and exploding brands around the globe,” said Rodriguez. “We’re very aggressively looking at new opportunities to expand and have several contracts out there to open our next unit.”
Furthering UFC GYM’s position around the globe is its new franchise concept: CLASS by UFC GYM. The first location opened in November 2017 in Yorba Linda, California — a direct response to the growing boutique trend.
“The boutique industry is growing significantly — it’s now around 35 percent of the total clubs in the industry, and it’s going to continue to grow,” said Sedlack. “We’ve been really good at developing incredible member communities, so what we’ve done in this new concept is figured out how to create even tighter continuity and connection.”
One of the most unique aspects of the concept is the member-facing technologies, the two most prominent being Hykso and FitMetrix.
Hykso is a wearable device that tracks a member’s punching power, speed and reps — allowing members to track their progression and compare their speed, power and punch count with other classmates.
FitMetrix serves as both a wearable device and software solution, allowing members to check in and reserve their spots for class, track calorie expenditure and total energy output.
With each of these technologies, the goal is to help members improve their personal performance. “It gamifies the experience,” explained Sedlack.
Another hallmark of CLASS by UFC GYM is its talented coaches, which Sedlack explained are key to the concept being successful. “As we started the first CLASS model, we knew the coaches and instructors we picked would be very important for this brand,” he said. “We were able to find some of the best talent out there that specialize in boxing, kickboxing and HIIT training. The environment is like nothing you will ever experience.”
In fact, Sedlack explained CLASS by UFC GYM is attracting a lot of instructors and trainers to not just teach within the model — but own it. “With this CLASS model, we’re now able to speak directly to personal trainers,” he said. “You can buy a CLASS model at a very low-entry point and there’s incredibly high margins.”
The concept is attractive to franchisees for a number of other reasons as well, including variable expenses and labor, a streamlined model, unique value proposition, and most notably, world-class support from UFC GYM.
“There’s a huge opportunity,” said Sedlack. “We’re going to scale this significantly not just in the U.S., but the entire world.”
With the boutique model now in its portfolio, UFC GYM will enter 2018 with plans for aggressive expansion, both domestically and internationally.
“There’s been explosive growth within the boutique market over the last six years, and the opportunity to sell CLASS by UFC GYM has tremendous opportunity to expand our national footprint,” said Jason Losco, the director of franchise development for UFC GYM. “It also allows us to take a hub and spoke approach to certain markets, where we can open a variety of Signature, Core and CLASS models. We’ve already sold several territories with more on the table to do so.”
International growth will also be a key strength for UFC GYM. In 2017, the brand announced a 10-year partnership agreement to open more than 100 UFC GYM locations in India — the largest partnership agreement in the company’s history.
Worldwide growth is bolstered by NeV’s support, The UFC name and first-class international partners.
“We’re really excited about international expansion, because our international partners are literally some of the best operators in the fitness industry — everyone brings passion,” said Tamer El-Guindy, the senior vice president of global franchising for UFC GYM.
And those partners are ultimately attracted to UFC GYM for its mission — to empower each member’s fighting spirit.
“We empower the fighting spirit in you,” echoed Losco. “So no matter where you are, whether it’s international or domestic — our members, our clients, our staff, believe in that philosophy.”
Moving into 2018, Sedlack explained UFC GYM’s core mission and purpose will guide the brand as it continues to capitalize on its strengths and expand into new markets.
“UFC GYM — going back to its purpose — somebody is always a little bit more empowered than when they initially walked through our door,” said Sedlack. “UFC GYM is going to do that through technology, through people, through passion, through accountability and through excellence. There’s no doubt in my mind UFC GYM is going to become the dominant fitness concept around the globe, especially when you throw in our new boutique model, CLASS by UFC GYM.”
Photos by Garrison Thompson and Sean Fujiwara.