Prime Gym Time: MMA Athletix

| October 17, 2014 | 2 Comments

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The smell of burning quasi-meat patties being “broiled” to chemical death drifted through the vents of my car, reminding me I haven’t eaten since I started my voyage. The chain’s royal mascot insisted “Have it your way” as I rolled towards the blue-roofed building, and so I did, driving right past that smoldering pile of food-garbage and into the parking lot of MMA Athletix. I was there off-hours for classes for a meeting with someone I’d spoken to online many times, but timing and health issues had kept us from meeting in person at the last NEF show.

Walking in through the front door I saw the many apparatus of the gym’s X-fit program, its core strength and callisthenic workout program. The scuffs on the floor and repair work on the heavy bags and dip bars told me it was a gym that had seen a lot of hard work and very few excuses over the years; no TVs or distractions in sight. It was a no-nonsense gym, which made sense given the owner who walked out of the children’s play area of the gym to greet me.

Ryan “The Junkyard Dog” Cowette has done triple duty for years within the Maine MMA landscape: Professional fighter, instructor of top-ranked amateurs, and personal trainer to a variety of people, both inside and outside the combat sports world. Add to that being a father of four and having a church with a congregation of over a hundred, you’d assume Cowette would need to prop his eyelids open with toothpicks; sleep and down time practically mythical. If that’s the case, he showed none of the strain, approaching with a bounce in his step as shook my hand.

His grip was rock solid and reminded me of his times in the cage I’d witnessed. He was cut from a different cloth than modern MMA fighters, having a style that fit into the late 90’s era of the sport. He operates as an unapologetic pressure BJJ fighter, closing distance and making opponents work constantly to keep their neck and arms out of trouble. In a match of endurance, few can keep pace with someone who practically lives in his own gym and his adversaries would inevitably wilt under the strain, leaving openings that led to finishes. Looking around the room, I saw plenty of equipment in the 24 hour facility, but no mats to speak of. Noting my confusion he produced a key from a pocket as he spoke.

“Oh, this is just the regular gym. We keep the rest locked up below.”

Cowette said, opening a door that lead down old farm-style stairs. The room was dark, but had mats very literally wall to wall in every direction; nary an inch of space unprotected.

“I like having mats everywhere, just because you never know what’ll happen.”

There were over a dozen heavy bags strung across rafters with a wide open space to roll; making for one of the better workout spaces I’d seen in my travels. We walked through the matted room, a corner of which was dedicated to kettlebells; a specialty at MMA Athletix. It warmed my heart to see the Russian strongman tool getting so much love and plenty given plenty of space to work the instruments. Walking around the corner, the building kept going into yet another fully equipped room of mats and bags, smaller than the first but still ready to host a considerable class of fighters. Heading outside, Cowette showed me a back lot filled with tractor tires, hammers and other functional strength exercises that have come into favor over the last years, making for a complete training experience for his fighters. It was clearly a place of great freedom to work as you wished and spoke of a nuance that had interested me about Cowette and his team.

In the fight world, it’s an oddity to have effective fighters with diverse skill sets from the same school, yet such is the case at MMA Athletix. Top rated New England Flyweight, Norman Fox, fights as a strong-arm boxer/submission wrestler, yet rising force Michael Crespo is a fleet-footed kickboxer with all the flair that Fox eschews. Mike Robinson is his own fighter as well, using a long striking game and Cowette’s old school BJJ game, but turned up to triple speed. Brent Dillingham and Jason LaChance are again different fighters, yet talented with their own distinctive styles. As we talked among the hanging bags of the smaller secondary studio, Cowette’s secret came out, speaking of his student’s intricate thought process and patterns of movement, showing a relationship beyond what you can find in larger gyms with a variety of instructors. Being right in the thick of training every day, Cowette had learned their every move and thought, subtly shaping each student into a unique weapon in their own right.

The conversation returned to Cowette’s own career for a time as he mentioned his recent decision to step away from competition. While an iron man in terms of endurance in and out of fighting, he spoke of the upstairs gym and the regular Joe and Jane that go there to make a healthy turn in their lives.

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“I noticed that when it came time for me to do my own fight preparations, the non-fighters sensed that disconnected come over me and would start to drift away. I don’t think I have anything left to prove in this sport, so now it’s my turn to give them my all and let them go as far as they can.” Cowette said, gesturing over his shoulder to the main room where his little band of warriors honed their craft.

It was something few people talk about in those terms, but “disconnect” is exactly the word for it. As we train ourselves to peak condition; fight time coming closer and closer by the day, we tend to shut ourselves off from the world outside of fighting. We must distance ourselves from temptation, surely, yet there’s also a side effect to becoming one within our own bodies: An inability to relate to simple burdens and small woes. You find yourself infinitely frustrated by how clumsy people are, how purposeless and awkward their movements and how able-bodied people are rendered helpless where an ounce of effort would make all the difference. In my own time fighting, I couldn’t even go to a grocery store because I couldn’t handle the stop-and-go of indecisive shoppers.

Though he had the same “but maybe” in his voice when speaking of his retirement that you hear so often among fighters who hang it up when they still have something in the tank, his dedication to his students, both in MMA and in the fitness world was evident in our time together. As we parted ways, I was left to think: If he’s produced such outstanding talent disconnected, what does the future have in store for MMA Athletix?

* * * * *

Be part of the future of MMA Athletix and visit www.mmaathletix.com for class schedules and information on martial arts, fitness and other particulars of the 24-hour operation. The gym is located on 101 Leeman Hwy in Bath, Maine.

Special thanks to MMA Athletix for having me in, and Prime Athletics for providing me with the gear needed to visit and train within these gyms around Maine.

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Category: 3Col, News, School Spotlight

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  1. Dan Bonnell says:

    Baseboard heating adds an additional obstacle to escaping the ground and pound game here.

    • Mike Hammersmith says:

      HAHAHA! The picture was taken from the grappling area. Like I said, he matted EVERYTHING in the room, just to be safe, like even up to the stairs. Unfortunately, the camera I borrowed to do this trip decided to act up during this tour and the next school, so I didn’t get many useable photos at his place.

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