It was Maurene’s idea that we would feel better if we learned how to fight. In the early months of 2017, my friends and I, like many women in America, were feeling newly vulnerable in our bodies and aggravated by the way the world was shaping up around us. We would be less frustrated if we could punch things, we reasoned; we would feel less fragile if the punching was part of a program designed to make us stronger.

Maurene’s husband had a friend who ran a boxing gym, so she took him out to drinks to ask him if he’d be willing to design a self-defense curriculum for a group of us: six women who liked yoga and spinning, most of us young-adult novelists whose daily battles are more often mental than physical.

He told her no.


He told her that he found self-defense useless: a few afternoons of drills couldn’t be counted on to ingrain themselves as instinct, especially when they would be needed exclusively in scary, high-stress situations. Plus, as far as he was concerned, most self-defense moves were improbably violent: You just aren’t likely to be able to bring yourself to put your thumbs in a guy’s eyes if you haven’t trained yourself to hurt someone else on command first. Serious violence is a place in your mind, and most people don’t even know where the door to that room is, much less how to open it.

But the coach made us an offer. If we wanted, he would teach us the basics of fighting: things like how to use pressure and control to get someone to take his hands off you in a bar. How to make a fist that wouldn’t shatter on impact with someone’s nose or ribs. Four weeks, an hour at a time. After that, we’d reassess.

That was February. Now I spend four or five hours at the gym every week: conditioning on Tuesday mornings, boxing and wrestling on Wednesday evenings, boxing and conditioning again on Saturday afternoons. Before the gym started a women’s wrestling class, I went to the mat with the men. I knew less than they did, but I was just as tenacious. I lived to make the coaches clap their hands together in delight when I managed to pull off something scrappy and wild.

The men who run the place still haven’t gotten over the novelty of us: the way we talk to each other constantly, and talk back incessantly, and show up like clockwork every week to slam the heavy bags back and forth until their chains rattle and we can’t hear one another talking over the sounds of their thunder. They don’t coach us like girls. They coach us like fighters. They treat us like athletes.

Some of the original group have fallen off in the months since we started, but we’ve added members, too: friends of friends who showed up and fell in love with the sport, or women who used to take the gym’s mixed-gender classes but who prefer the atmosphere of comraderie in ours. We gossip while we wrap our hands before class starts and while we’re doing cool-down stretching. Sometimes one of the women brings her toddler son, and her husband runs around in the ring with him while we’re getting warmed up.

It turns out that when you see people a couple times a week every week for a year, you get to know them pretty well. It’s always a delight to be a regular: to feel known when you walk into a room, especially when that room is traditionally built to intimidate and exclude people who look like you.

This is where I could say that fighting has mostly taught me about kindness and community, and it has, but I don’t want to underplay the physical aspect of it. I said, earlier, that our coaches treat us like athletes. As someone who has never before played competitive sports, I’m still figuring out what that means. But among its valences is that we are granted permissions that adult women rarely receive.

We are allowed to be nakedly competitive. We are encouraged to be striving and intense. There is no discussion of lean toning or dithering about building bulk. Instead there is: Hold your arms up and punch for three minutes. If you can do it once, do it again. If you can’t, here’s what to do to make sure that next time, you can.

The conversation about women’s bodies is often reduced to two options: Hate and change or love and accept. The underlying assumption is that change comes only as the result of disappointment. In boxing, we can want our bodies to be different without censure for vanity or narcissism.

A friend who doesn’t fight was recently telling her brother about what I’ve been up to. “Yeah,” he said. “But, like, I could still beat her up, right?” He’s well over six feet tall, and not what you’d call a shrimp; I’m 5’4”, and I’ve only been training for a year.

I don’t know the answer to that question. When I’m walking home alone at night or through a parking garage’s dim interior, I don’t feel like Wonder Woman. I don’t feel invincible: not nearly, not yet.

But now when I make a fist, my knuckles fall flat and my thumb curls into place around them. I know how to channel and direct my anger. I know how slippery a body can be, flailing around. And I know how much of myself I need to use to direct it where I want it to go.

It is hard to fight, it turns out: to flip the switch of aggression on and then off again. But I’m working on it, surrounded by women who are learning the same things: how to line up a punch, and how good it feels when you finally let it fly.


This article originally appeared at www.bonappetit.com/story/why-we-learned-to-fight


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With just under four weeks left in the competition, no true front runner has emerged to claim the lead! If history is bound to repeat itself, the likes of Dino Espinosa and Willard Ford look to claim the top spots once again. Don’t sleep on newcomers Jared Northrop, Jason Wei, Adrian Ariosa, or Malcolm Ford though, each has added weights sessions, daily cardio and conditioning workouts, and better eating habits across the first two weeks and look to break into the top five by the end of the competition. In the end, consistency wins and it’s not too late for you to jump start your efforts with the following tips:

  1. Consistency: whether it is committing to weekly cardio efforts, daily macros, or improved sleep habits, start NOW and keep it up for the next four weeks and beyond! Anyone can follow a plan for two weeks and see some change, but the point of this contest is to set sustainable habits around health and fitness!

  2. Hydration: keep up with your 3 liters of water daily (or more!)… if you started hydrating consistently at the beginning of the competition, your body expects you to provide it that amount or more! Water helps your muscles recover faster, flushing out muscles from your workouts, while also supporting vital organ function and digestion.

  3. Freshen it up: Between now and next week – CHANGE UP YOUR WORKOUTS – and pick new movements for weights, perform your cardio with different intervals or for longer, steady duration. Your body will enjoy the CHANGE and ADAPT accordingly, especially if your current workout plan is the same routine completed for the last few months.

  4. Food log: Track your macro-nutrients and calories using a service like MyFitnessPal. Studies show that logging daily food intake is one of the main factors for sustainable weight and body fat loss – doing so will help you see exactly how much of the good stuff (and bad stuff) you are getting. Remember to schedule your free health and performance consultation with the front desk to learn about which performance tests could best help your efforts the next month!

  5. Fueling and Recovery: Be sure you are eating enough; before and after workouts, during long workouts, and across your day. Crash diets and “bingeing” often occurs due to under-eating and dehydration and can create digestive issues! Keep eating a balanced diet and lean towards foods that your body does not experience bloating with after consumption.

  6. Meal plans: Try Kettlebell Kitchen, our new meal plan providers. The front desk can direct you to gym specials. Knowing your macros and following them is a surefire way to loose fat or gain muscle, the only two legit paths towards more favorable body composition.

That’s it for now! We will see you at the midway point, check-in #2 this Saturday from 8:30-10 am.



Jacob Lee is the new Head Performance Coach at SSG. He implements and oversees all metabolic testing and coaching efforts as well as infuses his knowledge of periodization into the current training architecture at SSG. He also lends a hand to strength and conditioning classes. His programming champions proper rest, recovery, and endurance base development as the foundation of any science based training program or effort. 

Jacob comes to Strong Sports Gym with a wealth of knowledge across a variety of sports, athletic performance, and weight loss settings. Having participated in many sports growing up, Jacob eventually settled on baseball and competed at the collegiate level for Occidental College, where he earned BA degrees in Kinesiology and Psychology in 2013. Upon graduation, he intended to pursue a Doctorate in Physical Therapy before accepting what was meant to be a temporary position as an Exercise Specialist.

Five years later and that temporary position blossomed into a career as a Sport Physiologist and Performance Coach. Over that period of time, Jacob worked with a wide variety of clients ranging from Jane Doe to professional athletes, including mixed martial arts stalwarts Jake Ellenberger and Nate Marquardt, tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, and Olympic gold medalists Allyson Felix (track & field), Henry Cejudo (wrestling) and Helen Maroulis (wrestling). With each of them he implemented metabolic testing and developed personalized heart rate training zones.

Jacob currently provides individualized coaching to approximately twenty students at SSG, including those looking for performance gains and weight management. 


I wanted to go into Physical Therapy because of all the injuries I worked through as an athlete, but after implementing just a few VO2 tests, I was drawn towards working with clients and athletes on how to condition the body to avoid injury, improve performance, and manage weight. There’s a balance to all of these factors - strength building, endurance, nutrition, hydration, and proper recovery that is individual to each person that walks in the gym. It’s through a holistic, science based approach that I came to understand these factors.
— Jacob Lee


Every individualized performance program with two key metabolic tests to determine the exact parameters of a science-based training program. 

The first is a Resting Metabolic Rate Test (RMR). Metabolism, quite simply, is the conversion of food to energy. Metabolic rate is a measure of how much food, or fat, is converted to energy in a day. RMR is the measurement of how much food, or energy is required to maintain basic body functions such as heartbeat, breathing, and maintenance of body heat while you are in a state of rest. That energy is expressed in calories per day and this test provides the foundation for a science-based caloric and macronutrient prescription. 

The second is a Max Effort VO2 Analysis Test (VO2). This graded test provides concrete data to uncover a individual’s endurance profile, or in other words, the ability to handle progressive, sustained exercise. It is generally considered the best indicator of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. The actual measurement is “milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight.” The test is suitable for a wide range of individuals, from the sedentary to elite athletes. This test provides necessary data to develop personalized heart rate training zones (or power) for precise and efficient workouts.

These two tests provide the data that informs an individualized coaching plan at SSG. Athletes receive detailed workouts, and diet and nutrition guidelines that are presented in a simple and easy to follow set of directions that will help them achieve their goals. 

To book, please email info@strongsportsgym.com or call the front desk at 310-800-3999. 


Strong Sports gym is now on YouTube with weekly instructional videos covering the details that matter. Our first offering shows you how to wrap your hands "Strong Sports-style."

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Subsequent videos will cover what to bring to the gym and why, important details about how to land a punch, place your feet, achieve superior position, and how to get the most out of your workouts and coaching. 

Short-format videos will appear weekly on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and point to long-form versions on YouTube. The first two are now live so click HERE to follow the link. 

Let us know what you think. We're here for you. 



~ Andrew Asch

I was confident that the worst part was over. So confident that I spread the news on Facebook.

“Sprung! I was in the hospital - it was a saga. Apologies if I missed birthdays, important meetings or just good times. I'll be back in the thick of things later this summer.”

I was fooling myself. I didn’t know how bad it was.

In April 2016, I checked into a hospital for a round of chemotherapy to knock out hairy cell leukemia. The most optimistic prognosis was that I could leave right after the treatment, maybe a week or so. Then, I would emerge with a new lease on life.

Maybe I was choosing to ignore the worst. Chemo kills all of your body’s defenses. You’re susceptible to any nasty bug out there. I developed something similar to TB; Mycobacterium kansasii.  The only good thing about it was that wasn’t contagious. The doctors wouldn’t let me out of the hospital until June 1.

By the time I got the green light to leave the hospital, I could barely move. My muscles had atrophied.  It made me feel like a frail, 90-year-old man.  The way I engaged the world changed. What was previously a 10 minute walk could take an hour. It was impossible to make it through a crosswalk in 12 seconds. I had to walk with a cane. It got so bad that sometimes I would lose balance on a sidewalk. I was fragile.

Seem grim?  It was better than the hospital.  

I didn’t whine too much. I took things as they came. I took some  basic physical therapy. It didn’t do much good. The muscles in my ankles were so frozen, I was walking like Frankenstein. I needed help. Willard Ford of Strong Sports Gym  had been checking up on me.  Here’s Willard’s take on the situation.

WILLARD FORD: When Andrew first came to the gym in 2012 it was under duress. Not sure if it was doctor's orders or Andrew just reached that age when people think they should exercise. From the first moment in the gym and for a couple of years Andrew couldn’t give a shit. He plodded along and barely took notice of the details, doing the bare minimum and checking off the exercise box once or twice a week. But I liked him, so didn't take it personally and pretty much left him alone. And then he vanished. 

I reached out via Facebook only to learn he was sick and in the hospital. I offered to come say hello, bring him some beers, but he assured me it was no big deal and that he'd see me in the gym when he got out in a couple of days. Another few weeks passed and when I next reached out again, Andrew was in dire straits. Again, I said I'd come see him but he didn't want any visitors. 

So I waited for him to come back. And waited. And waited. I finally convinced him to come to some one-on-one training to get him moving again. Little by little he improved. First mobility. Then stability and basic strength work. Then some basic conditioning.

 Slowly but surely, Andrew returned to his former self. Something had changed in Andrew. He cared about every step. Every piece of instruction. He was stronger, faster, better. Today Andrew comes at least twice a week and is in perfect step with all the other students. He does conditioning work, stability work, strength work. Whatever I ask of him and he smiles and jokes. I win.

ANDREW ASCH : I win too. I remember the slow steps taken to make me move.  It wasn’t hard. All the same, I got fatigued easily. I couldn’t do too much of it. 


Months after the hospitalization, I still looked frail. My weight had dropped around 40 pounds. Instead of wearing  size 32 waist  pants,  I was wearing a size 29. It probably was the only time in my life I had a flat stomach. A couple months into the SSG physical therapy, I was getting stronger. 

By the time I was able to do light strength exercises; pulling 3-pound weights above my chest, it felt like a big deal. It was getting easier to move around.

The bi-weekly classes went on for a few months. Gradually, my frozen muscles seemed to thaw. I didn’t need a cane to walk.

Willard suggested that I try out a conditioning class. I felt ready for it. The fact that  I was able to get through the class without coughing up a storm or collapsing on a mat felt like a milestone.

That was more than a year ago. The illness doesn't come up in conversation much. It’s great to be alive. My perspective doesn’t go deeper than that. And Willard is right. Strangely enough, I’m a better athlete.

Maybe I have better focus. Maybe the exercises have become muscle memory. I think that after going to scores of  conditioning classes,  I finally learned how to do the exercises.  I don’t spend much time thinking about it really. I don’t want to. The only thing that matters is that the saga of the illness was over. I was back.



~ Maurene Goo

There’s this thing about being a woman. Sometimes your outsides don’t match your insides. You can be a strong, no-nonsense person who verbally rips someone to shreds, but you have ask someone to help you open a pickle jar. It feels unfair. It feels shitty to walk this world knowing you are unsafe—that any mediocre man can take you by surprise and hurt you. That the only reason nothing bad has happened to you isn’t because you’ve been safe, but because you’ve been lucky enough not to come across someone who’s wanted to hurt you.

After the election, my usual irritation with the power imbalance between the sexes was amped up to a level that was unsustainable. I couldn’t contain my rage in a healthy way. I wished so hard for my outsides to match my insides. If they did, I would have been taller than a skyscraper, jacked and ready to crush every fucking human in history who paved the way for our current situation

And I wasn’t the only one. Every woman in my life was feeling this way, filled with despair and frustration, feeling powerless. Especially my writer colleagues—women who I sat with on election night with champagne at the ready. I write fiction for young adults. It’s something I love, writing funny and warm stories about romance, family, and friendship. It was rough trying to get back into that headspace when all I was feeling was this uncontrollable anger. One day, some of these writers and I were talking about this desire to be stronger—to have the ability to defend ourselves. Naturally, we thought of self-defense classes. Daydreams of kicking guys in the nuts and all. The thought of it filled us with pure joy.

My friend Ben had been going to a gym to do things like box and wrestle. He had a birthday party there and I remember thinking it had a nice vibe despite the boyness of it all. So I asked him if his coach, Willard, would be interested in teaching a self-defense class for women. Ben insisted that I meet Willard to talk about it, which I found a little strange.

That’s how I found myself at some rando tiki bar in Glendale on a weekday afternoon. When I mentioned that the election had spurred this entire enterprise, Willard started the conversation by asking me, “Why do you want this class now? Do you think you’re in more danger?” I bristled, ready for some grade-A mansplaining. It wasn’t that we felt like we were in more danger now—we’ve always been in danger. It’s just that we were just more hyper-aware and pissed.


But what I got instead was fightsplaining. “Self-defense classes don’t work,” he began. I took a sip of my drink politely, feeling like this was so LA, that even a martial arts dude had a holistic approach to his practice. But the more he talked, the more I listened. (Women are good at that.) In sum, his argument was this: You can’t truly learn to protect yourself from a crash course on poking out eyeballs. Not only is it not enough real training, but most of us aren’t deranged enough to physically hurt someone without lots of time spent practicing it. Not to put too fine a point on it: You had to learn to be ok with hurting someone.

And you also had to become more athletic. You have to learn to run, make yourself stronger. And this is what really convinced me. In the end, my friends and I wanted to be stronger. We wanted to be somewhat equipped to defend ourselves.

So we decided to try a four-week intro mixed martial arts class to see if it was something we’d be interested in. All of us were at varying levels of fitness. The first class started off with a mix of light conditioning, boxing, and grappling. If you had told me even five minutes before class started that I would not feel like an ass punching a bag with giant, smelly gloves on, I wouldn’t have believed you.

But it was love at first punch.

Love at first shove.

Love at first realization that, holy shit, this was fun.

Not grueling, not intimidating, not too serious. It was challenging, for sure. Thirty seconds into our bag drills, all of us were wheezing. We were women who ran every morning, did the splits, sprinted on stationary bikes—but this was a whole new thing.

And we were hooked.


So, the women’s martial arts class was started. The gym moved, new women came in, the class has tripled (or more?) in size, and we have it a couple times a week, now.

It’s the first time Strong Sports Gym has had women’s-only classes. I think the success of the class can be owed to something fairly simple: Safety. Not physically, but emotionally and mentally. Never would I have ventured into a boxing gym not knowing anyone or anything. I’ve done that with other kinds of classes in the past—I took up ballet as an adult and kept at it for years. I took pilates, yoga, spin, cardio barre, all that stuff. I was never intimidated because those were spaces where I felt welcomed as a woman. But wrestling, boxing, and weight-lifting? That was not shit I ever imagined myself doing. That wasn’t a space that I felt was mine. Visions of playing kickball with boys picking me last for the team, of bouncy dodge balls filling me with terror as they hurdled towards my face—that’s what I associate with boys and sports. Get me the fuck away from that, no thank you.

But this gym has really shifted that wariness. The staff has to be credited for that—they foster a laid back yet challenging environment. We all give them so much shit, but they’re good teachers and we’re lucky to have them. And they set the tone for the gym, which somehow manages not to be hypermasculine. (Sorry to bum you out, bros.)

So as months have past, we feel stronger and empowered but we also enjoy it as a sport, to watch ourselves get better, to see tangible growth. And then there’s the sense of community. It’s nice meeting twice a week to punch the shit out of a lumpy heavy bag that we named Paul Ryan.  

There was a moment once in class when I was doing pad work with Willard. As I focused on my jabs, in that zone you can get into when everything falls into place in this very satisfying way, Willard’s face broke out into a huge grin. “What?” I asked, defensively. It was never good when boys smiled or laughed while I was doing something related to sports.

“Did you ever think you’d like boxing?” he asked. As sweat dripped into my eyes, my arms heavy and tired, I also smiled. Because no, I never thought I’d like boxing. Like ever.

Whether it’s getting used to being hit in the stomach by another woman or learning how to stretch properly—these classes have balanced something inside of me. My outsides no longer feel so at odds with what I’m feeling inside. It’s a feeling I wish for every woman.




The fitness landscape is littered with half truths and all out lies. And charlatans. And phonies. And fakes. And jerks. Anyway, back on topic. There are no shortcuts but if you follow these not so easy steps you will be well on your way towards being strong and probably better looking.

Step #1: Study up. Learn how to train. Do a simple internet search here. If you followed the jump you should be good and confused by now. Fear not and proceed. 

Step #2: Assess yourself. Take a long look into the mirror and ask yourself if you are the best version of yourself. Are you weak or strong? Are you stable or unstable? Can you run, jump, and crawl? Are your muscles tight or loose? Any injuries or other health concerns? The answers to the above questions will inform your training plan.

Now get some baseline numbers. Measure your waist, arms, legs, chest, and neck. Weigh and measure yourself to get your Body Mass Index (BMI). Get your resting heart rate. Write everything down in a log and date it. This is your baseline self-assessment.


Step #3: Get a second opinion. Go to a trusted professional with a background in health and sports. Make sure that person is up-to-date in their information. Professionals assess hundreds if not thousands of people over the many years of their careers and they are likely to have better information than you or the muscle magazines. Ignore everything you read in Men's Health, Maxim, or The Yoga Journal.

Start by going to see a medical doctor. Get a physical exam to make sure you are cleared for exercise and diet.

Stick to the basics. Exercise, rest, ingest minimal sugar and alcohol (ahem). Avoid stress. Experts currently advocate Mediterranean-style cuisine as the most balanced and healthful diet. 

Step #4: Get tested. Accurate biological and physical data requires testing. Five basic things may be assessed. They include your general health (including blood work and EKG/stress test), flexibility and function of your joints and muscles, body composition, resting metabolic rate (RMR), and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2). A simple blood test analyzed by a medical doctor can reveal many things from a simple vitamin deficiency to life threatening disorders. By doctor I mean one that has a certified medical degree. A doctor who's practice is rooted in science. Your psychic nutritionist/chiropractor is not qualified to analyze a blood panel. 

Okay, back to the numbers. Knowing these values provides information against which to compare future testing. This builds a longitudinal record of your training. Testing over a period of months can reveal if you are improving. These numbers should inform a science-based training plan, one designed by a experienced coach. Yes, many coaches disagree on what the data means and how to use it. That's why the benchmarks are important.

Step #5: Set goals. Work on your own or with your coach to assess attainable short term and long term goals. Build muscle, lose weight, get toned, increase skills, improve your vert jump. Whatever, but you should have a goal. A plan is a plan because it has definable goals. In other words, your training is pointing towards a finish. 


Step #6: Go shopping. This is part two of Step #1. Start with Robert Forster’s book Healthy Running Step by Step to acquire a basic understanding of body mechanics, injury prevention, strength and stability training, interval training, and training structure. Buy it in GOODS or in the gym's pro shop. From there you may want to check out online resources like Training Peaks. Buy a heart rate monitor strap or watch/strap combo. The least expensive route to go is to use a free app on your smart phone coupled with a Bluetooth-supported heart rate strap. We have the Scosche RHYTHM+ online and in the store. Buy a bike, some sweet shorts, new Sabas boxing gloves, boxing/wrestling or weightlifting shoes. You need the tools of the trade. Using ratty old equipment provides little incentive to train. New equipment will give you wings. Trust me on this one. 

Pro Tip: Try Strava, MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness, Wahoo Fitness, etc.  to log your training information. 

Step #7: Make a plan. You should build a program to achieve your goals, no matter how modest or lofty, with or without a coach. The simplest plans are just a combination of ideas. Maybe it's to train 30 minutes a day or take three classes a week. Maybe add nutritional and weight loss ideas like eliminating sugar and alcohol from your diet. A general rule of thumb is that frequency trumps all. Working out daily (including active rest like stretching, foam rolling, walking, etc.) is the most important first step. Get your diet right. Doing something physical every day is much better than killing yourself on Saturday by taking four back-to-back classes.  

If you want to get more specific, an experienced and sensible coach and concrete data will go a long way to making your training plan usable, progressive, and effective. Our coaches start by dividing your year into units of time and work using a framework called Periodization. Using this framework, each three to four month period is divided into weeks and days with specific activities called out to help you move forward. Your plan should develop in the following areas and in specific order, from endurance to strength to power to speed. 

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The structure works like this. Each three week period of work is followed by one week of rest, and each of period is greater (in duration or workload) than the period before it until you begin to taper and peak. Then there's a period of rest before you start it all over again, but scaled slightly higher as your baseline fitness grows. Older athletes or those with limited time or mobility will have to make adjustments. 

Sounds complicated? It is complicated. That’s why you use a coach or other resource to help develop your plan. 

Step #8: Stick to the plan. Sounds intimidating? Complicated? Well, simple goals are good as well. Changing your diet or increasing the frequency of training can be the plan. The important part is to not do too much too soon. Just build better habits.

Step #9: Rest. I know we dealt with this earlier, but rest is so important it deserves it's own section. Rest is just as important, if not more important than hard work. Rest occurs weekly, between periods, and sometimes in what athletes refer to the "off season," a time when the athlete takes a physical and mental break from training. What constitutes rest? In some cases it's the elimination of any intensity. In others it's a simple reduction in overall volume. 

Pro Tip: Over-training is the leading cause of injury and burn out. We have a saying, “It’s better to suck from under-training than over-training."

Step #11: Reassess. Retest, run through the listed steps and repeat.  

Okay, so you're off to the races. Let us know if you need help with this. Coaches standing by. 


Most of you know Gene LeBell by reputation. Some in the flesh. Only a few of you will get to buy the Gene LeBell x SSG extremely limited edition tee. Only 12 were made and Gene has one of them. The rest are first come, first served. Don't degrade yourself by asking about the cut, sizing, handle, etc. Just run and get your wallet before they go. Available in store only.


Matt Hughes v. Frank Trigg II was the first fight to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. It’s widely known that UFC president Dana White considers this fight one of his all-time favorites- not just in MMA, but all of sport. According to White, the roughly four minutes of that fight “showed everything that is great about the UFC.”

Why honor this fight above all others as the first pick? It wasn’t to recognize Hughes, already inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. This honor requires that we look at the heel of the fight. One of the first bad guys in MMA. The heel who came before other notables like Josh Koscheck, Chael Sonnen, and the current heel du jour, Conor McGregor.

Who is Frank Trigg?

No word comes to mind more in Frank Trigg’s presence than "hustle."

There was a time when the word "hustle" wasn't pejorative - it was used to describe hard work and the mental fortitude consistent hard work required. It was an intangible quality that was hard to quantify but nonetheless was easily spotted by those who had an eye for it. It's time to reclaim that word from the shadows and give it its due as a badge of honor.

In that spirit, Frank Trigg is the consummate hustler.

One of seven brothers raised in Rochester, New York, Trigg was hustling for attention from the get go. The brothers were physically competitive and achieving on their own was a necessity and encouraged. All were considered good athletes in high school yet none save Frank thought about doing anything with their talent. Of the siblings, Frank was the most determined. Picture a 10-year-old walking three miles one way for a kung-fu lesson.

This determination defined Trigg’s fighting style. When asked about it, Trigg responds in succinct, staccato soundbites: “I'm the gas pedal. I go harder than the other guy. He'll want to quit. 100 miles an hour. As fast as you can go. Constant pressure - a berserker kind of style.” When a comparison is brought up between that style and that of Wanderlei Silva in Silva's prime, he welcomes it, just making the distinction that they had different tools they brought to achieve their objective. Silva had Muay Thai and BJJ. Trigg had wrestling and boxing.

His approach to marketing as an MMA fighter demonstrated similar verve. He launched his own brand - Triggonomics, opting to promote himself alongside anyone who would throw him extra cash to supplement the meagre payout from the UFC and their competitors. This was in the early 2000s and Trigg’s two title fights paid less than $15,000 apiece; a far cry from the six to seven figures awarded to headliners today.

Trigg credits a summer from his youth when he was grounded for missing curfew as the time he began to understand self-promotion. Barred from the outdoors, Trigg read voraciously including a biography of Muhammad Ali. He read that Ali was tutored by none other than genius promotor Aileen Eaton of Olympic Auditorium fame. Eaton put Ali together with Gorgeous George and Freddie Blassie, two huge wrestling personalities that inspired Ali’s “I am the greatest” shtick. What Ali went on to achieve is legend. Trigg modeled Ali and sat opposite Matt Hughes’s equally manufactured country boy persona. Most fans hated "Twinkle Toes" Trigg and that’s the way he planned it.

The fights that defined Trigg’s career are also the ones that ended it. He fought and lost to Hughes twice for the UFC Welterweight Championship. On paper Hughes was no match for Trigg, a superior wrestler and striker. Yet as with most combat sports (and sports in general), just because entity A defeats entity B, and entity B defeats entity C, entity A does not automatically beat entity C. To wit - Trigg beat fighter Dennis Hallman twice. Dennis Hallman beat Matt Hughes twice. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in both, Trigg’s hustle failed and he was never to test for the UFC championship again.

Trigg’s transition from professional fighting to professional non-fighting life was nothing short or incredible. Name an MMA promotion and it's likely that Trigg has fought for it, provided commentary for or about it, or both. He's famed for fighting early on a PRIDE card so he could provide commentary during the rest of the show. Trigg is MMA's perpetual motion machine. Go ahead. Use that search engine at your fingertips. Type “Frank Trigg” into the little box and press enter. Hours later, if you listen to every interview, read every article, watch every available clip on YouTube, you'll still only have scratched the surface.

The transition wasn’t easy. Trigg found himself outside the inner circle of the UFC after working and fighting for rival PRIDE in Japan. A natural born shit talker, Trigg pushed himself further and further away from the organization that was to come to control the sport. Things peaked when Lorenzo Fertitta, casino owner, entrepreneur, and co-owner of the UFC, showed up at the wedding of a mutual friend. Trigg describes how the crowd parted “like the Red Sea.” Fertitta directly called Trigg out on the trash talk. Trigg explained that it was all part of his job - he had a mortgage and PRIDE was writing the paychecks. The path to peace was laid.

Just when things started to warm up again with the UFC, an altercation with UFC announcer Bruce Buffer deepened the divide. Buffer made the error of getting between Trigg and Dana White just as Trigg was speaking to the UFC president about getting back into the organization. As the story goes, Trigg's hand flew out and delivered Buffer a blow. This popped off as the elevator doors were closing. For 10 floors, White, White's bodyguard, and UFC commentator Mike Goldberg were wide-eyed witnesses to the surreal spectacle of Trigg and Buffer exchanging blows. When the elevator doors opened, the action stopped, and both Trigg and Buffer (friendly then and friendly now, by the way) stopped. Buffer looked down and his thumb was a wreck. His shirt was stained with blood. After a quick trip to a Vegas ER for some stitching, Buffer has claimed, he was back on the town, ending the night successfully by retiring for the evening with a "beautiful woman." Stories like this are the legends of MMA, the oral history - not televised, photographed, packaged, and produced - that will equally cause fan, fellow fighter, and journalist alike to question the story's veracity. Like the "Judo" Gene LeBell - Steven Seagal story that ends with LeBell standing over an unconscious (and soiled) Seagal.

Over the years, the UFC has warmed to Trigg yet again, culminating with the Hughes v. Trigg II induction into the UFC Hall of Fame. Today, you can find Trigg hosting regular interviews on a show called "Toe to Toe with Trigg" at mmaoddsbreaker.com, interviewing popular fighter after popular fighter. His fighting history and extensive network of friends insures a constant flow of top talent: Randy Couture, Gilbert Melendez, Michele Watterson, Johnny Hendricks, etcetera. When Trigg speaks, it's with his patented no-nonsense, take-it-or-leave-it directness that’s become Trigg’s hallmark. A more circumspect personality, given to nuance, affectations of politeness, or being "nice" will likely find him abrasive. MMA fighters have themselves been so rattled by his cutting commentary that they've publicly confronted him. Remember, though, that "niceness" is a strategy- a form of manipulation, a mask of harmlessness and pleasantry. Trigg may paint his toenails, but he certainly doesn't gloss over what he says. Conor McGregor felt so burned by Trigg’s analysis that he won’t let Trigg interview him for anything. Ever.

Currently, Trigg coaches at Strong Sports Gym in downtown LA, alongside fellow former UFC fighters Mac Danzig and Vladimir Matyushenko. He's actively involved in work as a stuntman and is working as a referee in the major fighting organizations save the UFC, where his debut there is imminent. His interview show is well received and he stays involved and active in all aspects of social media, regularly speaking his mind on issues both inside and outside the cage.

Trigg muses: “Every morning when I wake up, I think ‘How can I win today?’ I’m still very competitive in everything I do.”

The hustle.

~ Michael Martin


Frank Trigg started wrestling when he was 12, eventually competing in NCAA's Division I, and was an Olympic trials wrestling finalist. He also holds a 2nd degree black belt in judo. An original member of Rico Chiparelli's RAW (Real American Wrestling) team, Trigg trained with the likes of Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Vladimir Matyushenko, and Matt Lindland, becoming one of the first MMA fighters to excel at all aspects of the game- striking, clinching, and groundwork. Connect with Trigg on Twitter, Facebook, or visit his website at http://www.franktrigg.com/. Trigg can also be found on IMDB, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn. His Acting Resume and Stunt Profile are available by clicking on the links provided.


Strong Sports Gym (SSG) is a modern gym facility featuring group and individual instruction in sports performance, boxing, wrestling, mixed martial arts, and conditioning. 

In a world of fitness fads, SSG focuses on the basic building blocks of strength, conditioning, nutrition, and mastery of essential and proven skills. With sports science at its base, classes stress awareness, preparedness, and health to ready students for competition, self-defense, and general well-being.

We take great pride in the quality and experience of our in-house coaches and visiting experts. The legendary Mac Danzig, Frank Trigg, and Vladimir Matyushenko head up the Mixed Martial Arts, Submission Grappling, and Wrestling programs with visiting athletes like Kengo Ura and Seiko Yamamoto filling out the roster. Coach Moe heads up the Boxing program, a coach much sought after for his prodigious talents inside and outside the ring. Assistant coaches Howard Liu, Maynard Ancheta, Benjamin Lee, Adrian Gonzalez, and Matt Aguila bring great experience and expertise to a program focused on fundamental skills and self-defense. SSG founder Willard Ford assists with all classes and coordinates the schedule, conditioning program, and sparring practice throughout the week.

SSG is an ultra-clean, friendly, and professionally maintained facility that is welcome to all.


My name is Willard Ford and I am the owner and one of the coaches at Strong Sports Gym. My introduction to martial arts was through Paul Le Mat (John Milner in American Graffiti) who held mitts for me and took me through the basic punches of boxing. Jab, straight right, left hook, and uppercut. To be honest, it didn't really hold my interest.

To my young mind, boxing could not compete with the pull, complexity, and mystery of kung fu. The 1970s were awash in Orientalism: we watched Godzilla and ate sushi, Bruce Lee was cool, and kung fu was real. A small but pugnacious kid, I chased the black belt and built myself up into my image of a tough guy, complete with a bad ass uniform and hundreds of deadly techniques at my disposal. David Carradine reminded me daily that nothing more deadly than the splashing hands of China.

Then it happened. I went to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) class and was thoroughly exposed. I was choked, locked, and smothered into submission. Despite years of what I believed was hard and realistic training, I was beaten after only a few seconds on the mat. So back to the drawing board as I explored BJJ, judo, Thai boxing, and more realistic kung fu styles, all in the quest to redeem myself.  After years immersed in eastern methodologies, I regained my confidence and thought I had it all worked out.

Ironically, it took going to Japan to begin to understand western martial arts. In 2002, I went to interview and train with Kazushi Sakuraba, the shining star of the Pride Fighting Championships, then the world's premier mixed martial arts (MMA) organization. The few hours I spent at Takada Dojo watching and working out set me on a new path that informed my study ever since. I was deeply committed to the study of BJJ and believed it the ultimate martial art, having proven itself almighty in the MMA competition. But five minutes on the mat with Sakuraba told me a different story. His movement was foreign, more complete than anything I'd felt before, and every move a setup or trap that led to a finish. From standing to rolling I was completely helpless. So once again I was humbled by my single-minded focus on looking eastward for answers. The irony was not lost on me that a Japanese guy doing western wrestling was beating an American obsessed with Brazilians dressed in Japanese kimono and doing judo.  

I returned to the States determined to find a place to train that captured both the spirit and movement I experienced that day. I read about Frank Trigg and Rico Chiapparelli in the now defunct Grappling Magazine. It detailed their methods and training at the R.A.W. (Real American Wrestling) Training Facility in El Segundo, California (now called R1 Gym and located in nearby Inglewood). The article described a style with wrestling as its base and Chiapparelli as the maestro who had figured out how to apply wrestling to the emerging MMA game. A mere 20 minutes away, I grabbed my gear and drove to the gym. At R.A.W. wrestling connected the space between striking and ground fighting so it was elevated, not avoided. Each movement was designed to achieve dominance. While all techniques were considered, they had to fit into the wrestling and vice versa, and they had to represent the most current and informed practices.

So this all begs a question. Were my failures mine or was my training inadequate? After a few months at R.A.W. things started to click. I could go into any school and participate and even beat some guys. I’m no great athlete or competitor, but I could see it was working. And I could see the R.A.W. fighters prove the methods in front of me, taking on all comers from all styles. These guys were real martial artists who lived the gym maxim, “Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.”

When I opened Strong Sports Gymnasium in 2009, it was to provide the most informed and expert training possible. I brought in professional coaches and ex-fighters like R.A.W. alumnus Frank Trigg, Vladimir Matyushenko, and Kengo Ura. I also partnered with key striking coaches in western boxing and Dutch-style kickboxing, as well as subject matter experts in physical therapy, sports performance, and diet and nutrition. With the integration of western wrestling and boxing as its base, the curriculum of Strong Sports Gymnasium is committed to the best and most effective practices and how they fit together.