The love for sports, the strong belief in the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the determination to make a positive change in society, are all drives for 26-year-old Moadh Bukhash, a co-owner of Contender, the only one of its kind Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) gym in Dubai and the UAE.
“I was obese throughout my teenage years until the age of 20, when both my best friend and I who was also overweight decided to make a change, ’ Moadh said.
‘Even though I’ve always loved football, a passion which I’ve picked from my older brother, it was only after making that decision that I started exercising regularly, ’He added.
“I’ve also always been a fan of MMA. There’s so much history and culture in it, and I admire how in addition to its physical benefits, it requires and teaches patience, discipline and good sportsmanship.”
Towards the end of 2010, the idea of a Martial Arts gym first occurred to Moadh and his three business partners Tam Khan, Yasser Al Mestrihi and Adnan Fatarayji.
“ We’ve noticed that even though there was a rise of interest for MMA in the community, there wasn’t a dedicated facility for it at all.”
Putting that plan in action has been a challenge and required a lot of courage from the group not only because of the risks of failure that came with any small business idea, but also because this wasn’t the typical gym, but a complete different category of sports facility that never existed in the UAE before.
The first step was to get agreement from both the federal government to start up the business, and from the Martial Arts federation to license the practice of that sport in the gym.
Then there was renting a space. The group required an area that was big enough, and at the same time easy to reach and access by potential customers, so they ended up choosing Shaikh Zayed Road as their location.
It took four months to set up the special equipment, which was all ordered from the UK.
“ We decided to divide and conquer, and therefore assigned a role for each one of us. Yasser is the managing director, Adnan takes care of the financials, Tam looks after the gym day to day, and I’m in charge of marketing, ‘’ He said on how he and his business partners run the gym.
Since its opening in November 2010, the gym which has coaches for different disciplines and which offers various MMA sessions in additional to classes including boxing, cardio and Zumba and has separate training areas for both women and children, has at least a 100 customers subscribed at any time of the year.
What makes the gym different, other than its MMA specialization, is its social role.
“ We are always in touch with the community. We hold regular MMA tournaments, games and seminars and we raise health and lifestyle awareness through campaigns that we carry out either by partnering with schools, cooperating with youth initiatives or through social media, “ Moadh said.
“ The community, including youth, parents and teachers have been extremely supportive, and social media is one of the most powerful tools that we use to spread our messages, ” He added.
So far, Contender has won “both Dubai and the UAE’s top social media brand in the Health and Fitness” in Grafdon’s 100 UAE brands on Social Media 2011 report and also won Ahlan’s best in Dubai under the health and fitness category.
“With startups, odds will most probably be against you. You should do your best, but at the same time be prepared to fail. Choose a niche market to focus on, and choose a good team to work with,” Is the advice that Moadh offered to any young person with a business idea.
Follow them on twitter @contendermma