Fitness through combat sports another focus for Golden Fights Gym

As a class of mixed martial arts students watch, Andrew Yates, top, demonstrates a Jiu-Jitsu escape technique at Golden Fights MMA Gym. The gym is more than just an MMA training ground, as there are several classes available for those who want to get in shape through combat sports.

One night, out of the blue, Dennis Bennett was attacked.

“Somebody put a rear-naked choke on me, you know, on the street, and I didn’t know how to defend myself or what to do,” Bennett said. “So I made up my mind that I was going to start some kind of self-defense. It started with karate, then to boxing and now I’m here.”

Here is Golden Fights MMA Gym, where the 69-year-old spars and trains alongside those trying to make a living as MMA fighters who battle in the cage. Bennett has no such aspirations to ever climb into the MMA cage, but what started as a way to protect himself has morphed into a way to stay active.

“Cardio, primarily,” said Bennett about the focus of his workouts. “When you get older, it’s harder to keep moving, keep your breath. So I’m here for the cardio now, mostly.”

Golden Fights isn’t just a bunch of sweaty, jacked 20-somethings punching one another. Although owner Steve Yates says it’s “an MMA gym,” there’s also a heavy focus on general fitness through combat sports. The gym offers classes in kickboxing, Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling. Some are focused on skills, creating better MMA fighters, while others hone in on cardio and general fitness. There are also personal training sessions available for purchase, and the variety of activities can make the gym crowd interesting.

As Tony Darling, a former state champion wrestler from Paonia, and Andrew Yates, son of Steve Yates and a professional MMA fighter, circle each other in a sparing match, people of all ages are paired off in their own mini-battles. A pair of pre-teens, one boy and one girl, take turns launching kicks into blocking thai pads. A pair of younger boys are doing the same, as are two older men. Students and parents. Bus drivers and business professionals — it’s a diverse gym.

Steve Yates said participants of all ages have used classes to shed weight and a handful of children who have struggled in school — either academically or with fighting — have found a way to channel their childhood angst through MMA training.

“You teach a kid to fight, then he doesn’t want to,” Steve Yates said. “He’s confident in himself. Take a kid who wants to fight all the time, bring him here and he learns how to restrain himself. He doesn’t need to prove anything anymore.”


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