A family-run club, KO was founded in Dubai in 2008 with its first club in Dubai Marina, and has just unveiled its second premises on Sheikh Zayed Road – a sprawling club with roughly double the capacity of the original. Among the many classes offered are BKBMT (boxing, kickboxing and muay Thai), ladies’ kickboxing, combat, judo, capoeira, aikido, Bujinkan, MMA and personal training, as well as kids classes in a number of disciplines.
Dee Taumafai, of the family that owns and runs the gym, explains that the vast majority of clients are entirely new to fighting when they walk through KO’s doors (as many as nine out of ten), which works well: the instructors’ philosophy is to focus on the basics. ‘All the trainers are either current or ex-competitive fighters,’ she explains. ‘All of us here have grown up in the sport.’
She notes that the number of martial arts gyms in Dubai has quadrupled in the past 12 months. But even as it grows in size, KO encourages a social, neighbourly atmosphere. ‘We really, desperately want the sport to grow here, and it has. But even in our KO crew, we’re more like a community than any other fitness gym – a lot of our clients have made good friends through the gym. Also, because we have a promotions and fighting events side, they back the people they train with, which makes them more tight-knit.’
Group classes from Dhs50 per session, and from Dhs500 per month. Personal training from Dhs200 per session, Dhs2,000 for 12 sessions. Dubai Marina and Al Safa, Sheikh Zayed Road (050 286 1673).
Established in October 2010, this is the city’s go-to spot for expert mixed martial arts training. Since then, the centre has gone on to form MMA events promoter Dubai Fighting Championship, which founder Tam Khan describes as having been a huge success. ‘We’re going to make future MMA stars in the UAE, that’s for sure!’ he adds.
Contender offers a wide range of classes: alongside MMA, it also teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, boxing, strength and conditioning, circuits, Zumba, capoeira, kids’ MMA, ladies-only muay Thai and personal training. It also offers corporate training, and is planning to launch classes in other disciplines in the near future. ‘All of our coaches are professional fighters in each of the disciplines,’ explains Tam, a professional fighter himself. ‘Hence our slogan: “Real fighters, real training”.’ The gym has even had the likes of Anderson Silva, Royce Gracie, Amir Khan and Jean-Claude Van Damme drop in to train. ‘World champions and members of Dubai’s royal family have also trained regularly at our facility, so that’s a huge compliment and shows us how far we’ve come,’ Tam adds. Currently located just off Sheikh Zayed Road, the centre will be opening a ‘huge’ new facility in the coming weeks to accommodate new members – there are currently 250 regulars, and about 500 in total.
Group Dhs80 per session, Dhs500 per month; private Dhs350 per hour, Dhs3,000 for ten hours. 1st floor, Heidelberg/Giordano building, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 346 9990).
MMA Fitness Center
This comparatively new fitness club in Dubai has premises in both Discovery Gardens and TECOM. As well as traditional MMA and muay Thai training, the centre offers much more, including intense, high-energy classes, some of which make Les Mils sessions look like an afternoon nap. The RIP60 classes seem particularly popular – essentially a suspension training session, but one that claims to offer noticeable results in just 60 days.
Unfortunately, problems with the website at the moment make it difficult for potential clients to find out which classes are scheduled for which days, but things are spread out to offer the greatest variety. Call ahead for more information.
Group classes Dhs100 (unlimited use of gym after class), personal training from Dhs2,200 for 10 sessions. Membership from Dhs598 (includes registration fee). Zen Building 2, Discover Gardens (04 450 8808); Pacific Building, TECOM, www.mmafitcenter.com (04 367 5077).