When we first told you about the UFC’s plans to conquer the fitness market two and a half years ago, you may have expected the “fastest growing sport in the world” to become the “fastest growing fitness chain in the world”. Well, we’ve crunched the numbers and it looks like the franchise has fallen just short of that goal. Yesterday marked the grand opening of only their third location, all of which are located in California. Perhaps sensing that the brand could use a jumpstart, the UFC and BJ Penn have announced their partnership in the first of a new series of UFC Gyms to be headlined by the organization’s biggest stars.
From a business perspective, this makes perfect sense. BJ is an icon in the sport and a celebrity in Hawaii, and slapping his name up next to a UFC Gym sign will have people pouring in. But beyond BJ’s rabid fan base, is this pairing really the best fit?
Sure, having a World Jiu Jitsu Champion and former title holder in the UFC’s Lightweight and Welterweight divisions at the helm of a gym sounds like a no brainer. Only, “The Prodigy” didn’t become an MMA champion thanks to his work ethic; he became one despite it. He’s basically the posterboy for relying on unnatural natural talent- even his nickname connotes an innate gift, an ability achieved without hard work or sacrifice. Obviously, BJ wouldn’t be where he is today if he didn’t devote himself to his craft. And no, he didn’t crash and burn in the later rounds of every fight. But the simple truth is he doesn’t really like to train hard. Even when the cameras were rolling for Primetime, he didn’t think twice about taking five days off from training for the biggest fight of his life to chill on the beach. Basically, no one else on earth could achieve his level of success training as he does, which makes him an interesting namesake for a training facility, you know?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. No one gets bent out of shape when they grab dinner at Planet Hollywood and they’re not sitting next to Bruce Willis, and this is kind of the same deal. BJ has his real gym on another island, and when he makes the occasional token appearance at this facility he’ll have great insight to share with the students. The big question is which UFC superstar will be the next to get his own place? Maybe Rampage?