MMA Gyms Are The New McDojo’s

        Popular martial arts culture is in a post-karate, and post-taekwondo phase. Of course, the most popular mcdojo/mcdojangs are still Taekwondo and Karate gyms but they are definitely being seen today for what they are, glorified daycare centers. The reason is that the UFC popularized the sport of MMA, the most free range combat sport we have today. The sport that allows for the most realistic fighting possible while still being safe, and still mimicking a street fight by about 95% (my own opinion). This has opened the eyes of so many people to see that many of the Karate, Taekwondo, and Kung Fu gyms people have often thought of as places to learn deadly fighting techniques actually are fake and untested with really awful techniques that just don’t actually work. This is not to say the true martial arts of those 3 umbrella styles are fake or do not work. It just so happens so many of the gyms were over time have been established by people who have no clue about real fighting and exist just to make money. The fact many Taekwondo, Karate, and Kung Fu gyms actually do have top quality self defense instruction and promote their true martial arts for the sake of actual combative self defense is besides the point of this article.

        With the new focus on realistic fighting and practicality and the popular sport of Mixed Martial Arts widely broadcast on TV many other fraudulent and embellished instructors have thought to cash in on this MMA craze. The new mcdojo is the MMA gym! MMA is the new “karate.” Instead of people saying “I do Karate!” like they did in the 60’s-90’s they now say they do MMA, or even worse, “train UFC.” Have you ever met a guy or gal who just HAS to let you know that he trains in MMA and wants to correct your kicks or tell you how you need to re-learn how to punch properly? Seriously, not just men act this way but women too who think they are badass grapplers and can take you out. One time I was training at a Gracie Garage program downtown and some girl from one of the local MMA gyms showed up and did not even introduce herself and says, “Hey wanna roll?” She acted macho just the same as a guy. I got a kick out of it and I was wearing a gi and white belt, she had on a rash guard and MMA shorts. I ended up owning her hardcore and making her quit. She just got up and walked off the mat like an idiot without telling me anything or even that our sparring session was over. So during our roll she just randomly rolls away and stops, then walks away and does not say “hey hold on I need a break or thanks for the roll.” Nothing! Then later she proceeded to tell me how to correctly kick the heavy bag and throw elbows. I just pretended she was good and better than me and laughed inside my head. Some of the best ways to ignore egotistical idiots is to let them think they are better than you, ask them about techniques they learned from their teachers. You may or may not learn a new idea (even if they can’t do it well themselves they might have someone who taught a theory or idea you might benefit from) then you will know their weaknesses and end up owning them if you spar.

        Just because you train at an MMA gym does not make you an automatic badass or even a good fighter. It does not mean you are learning anything realistic that you can actually use. Many Karate mcdojos and Taekwondo mcdojangs have converted into MMA mcdojos by adding in craptastic programs such as “grappling class” or a “Muay Thai program.” This is obvious and is especially true of large chain martial arts franchises, but even more deceptive are the independent MMA gyms owned by high school wrestler jocks or other big looking people who really have no martial arts mastery. In the Southerm United States where I currently live there are plenty of redneck MMA gyms or hick/hill billy MMA gyms opened by average “billy bob’s” who maybe wrestled in high school and bought a heavy bag to hang in their garage. These people have absolutely no true martial arts instructor certification and are usually ex-high school wrestlers, and sometimes ex-Karate point fighters or Taekwondo guys (usually from a low grade no-name TKD organization no one knows about except 10 people). These people then claim to teach Muay Thai because they kick and punch and watched some YouTube videos. Some of them even go to random seminars by other frauds who claim to certify people in Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or even yet, claim to give out “Sambo black belts.” There was one MMA gym in a small town I knew of that claimed to teach Sambo. The owner claimed he was a Sambo black belt. It turns out he really just got some random MMA fighter guy who held a seminar claiming to teach Sambo and sold him a black belt. The owner of this MMA gym also claimed to teach Judo, MMA, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as well as Sambo. The kid maybe had 2 fights he claimed were pro. Pro meaning he went to a low level promoter and got paid to fight twice while still sucking and thinking he is a badass. His gym lasted less than a year and closed. It was a fly-by-night operation. All of the Sambo and MMA belt certifications the local town people tested for, if they meant nothing before they gym closed, even more so, mean absolutely nothing now that the gym is non-existent. They paid fee’s to test!

        Still yet there are MMA mcdojo’s that have a lot of success because they started off from a rich guy who had money to buy a location and build a cage or set up a ring. These types of owners find people to teach classes. Most likely will hire a blue belt, or a fresh new purple belt in BJJ and then the owner might claim to teach striking for MMA because he had a Taekwondo black belt from a random organization and he wrestled in high school. These groups become popular and get people to fight in local promotions featuring low level talent and then claim they are a real gym for real fighting. Fact is most MMA promotions allow really low skilled “jobbers” to fight each other. Big fat guys or craptastically skilled football jocks who rely solely on athleticism. You can in fact usually call a phone number if you want to fight in an event and they will sign you on the card to fight another random guy who thinks he is tough. It is very easy to get liscenced to fight by the state athletic commission if you simply pay a fee and pass a physical. It has nothing to do with years training or ranks in a martial arts style at very low level MMA events.

        There are even chain MMA gyms that are nothing but glorified yoga and cardio kickboxing studios. For example there are even MMA gyms in Walmart now:

You wanna train there while people at the checkout watch you hit the heavy bag and look cool? You could also buy an MMA Elite t-shirt at Walmart (I actually have some MMA Elite shirts (hey they look cool ok? shut up! Seriously, some look badass with samurai guys and stuff on them!)

Often times, it is actually better, smarter, and more economical to train at a traditional martial arts gym such as Karate, Taekwondo or Kung Fu where you learn a systematized combat art with levels of progression that work on skill perfection instead of brawling. In reality, it takes a lot of time to perfect a skill and it is smart to train in a specialized style instead of a place that is average in everything. A skillful person usually beats an average joe who has slopped through an MMA stew instead of specific skill instruction in one area.

Now I want to make sure people know that is it obvious there are actually legitimate MMA gyms with dangerous fighters, but they are more rare than people think. More often than not your average MMA gym is a terrible place to train with a negative macho man environment where everyone is trying to prove something and people get injured. Just go train at a boxing gym instead, or a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu  Dojo! Or just take Taekwondo or Judo! You can mix and match later once you actually get good at something. Beware of the current popular trend of MMA McDojos!


White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

  1. MesYang88 says:

    A small gym in a Walmart…? I guess anyone can rent the space but I would not want to train there. Though I suppose you wouldn’t have to advertise much, you would brobably have to turn down students due to lack of space. I once took over the TKD program at a gym where they had 17 stidents but only room for 12. I had higher expectations than their previous instructor so a few quit and I wouldn’t accept more than what the floor space would allow. And after about a year and a half there I moved the program to a BJJ school where we had much more room.

    • White Dragon says:

      How do you pay rent if you turn people down or they quit?

      Also you cannot just move into a walmart. It has to be some kind of partnership or agreement. Only special places can team up with walmart. I think because of Elite MMA and some company and Dollemuer mats set this up but its still ridiculous.

      • Tkd1stdan says:

        You said the UFC was the proving ground to test martial arts to see which is the most effective which you said was closer to a real fight 95% what did you mean by that? I believe the UFC is nothing life a self defense situation where there are knives and guns which I’m not critising you, it’s just I only see it as a combat sport with too much egotism and arrigance which you said your against the trend of mma. Why should the UFC be respected when the culture is stupied except for the fighters who are true martial artist who don’t engage in the stupid trash talk and who are not boastful about their martial arts skills claiming they can beat the bs out of traditional martial artist like us. I believe taekwondo, hapkido, kung fu, karate, and other asian martial art can be used in a ruthless and aggressive way which is the reason why I stopped training at the MMA school that I trained at. I commend you for seeing beyond what taekwondo is which is much more then a sport which is as a martial art. Someday I will be a grandmaster who is knowledgeable in all aspects of taekwondo especially the self defense aspect. I will change the martial arts world so the MMA trend can disappear and be forgotten.

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