Here’s a good way of providing opportunities for competitive fighting-
The competitive sport of ultimate fighting, and more specifically, mixed martial arts (MMA) has become more and more popular in the United States recently with the rise of names like Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture.
Here in Salamanca, a local businessman, Michael “Snake” Tome, understands this popularity, and for the past seven years, has helped train young men and women at a place that, according to him, he didn’t have as a kid – a place where people could come and train to fight and live healthy.
The Knockout Factory, located at 137 S. Main St., a former beverage company warehouse, is a gym that, according to its slogan, “anybody can go to.” Tome said that no man, woman or child would be denied entry to the gym. Completely open to the public, there is no admission, no fees and no membership payments. The facility is privately owned and funded, though donations are accepted.
“We have an open door policy, anybody can come,” Tome said. “We don’t discriminate, we don’t send anybody away or anything. And it’s really fulfilling to us coaches to find some guys doing other stuff than just hanging out on Main Street.”
However, if one wants to just work out at a gym free of cost, there are weights, exercise equipment and machines available for cardiovascular and fitness use.
“We have a variety of reasons why people come here,” Tome said. “Some people want to lose weight, some want to work on their stamina, some want to feel better about themselves. We’ve had kids come in here who were tired of getting picked on.”
In opening the gym in Spring of 2002, Tome said he saw a void in the community that needed to be filled, according to the gym’s Web site. Tome knew he could help by opening a place where people could come and train to fight and live healthy, while getting the attention, training and support needed to compete.
“My father was a professional boxing trainer, and he helped me,” Tome said. “He instilled the qualities in me to keep my guard up and better myself. I always wanted something like this, and when business stared taking off, I was able to rent the building. Most of the equipment I brought myself, had it in my basement.”
When the gym first opened, Tome said he trained a couple of girls who wanted to join a ‘tough man’ competition, but soon after, business picked up.
“More and more people started coming,” he said. “It snowballed from there. I never realized there were so many people who were interested in the same things I am.”
Throughout the years, Tome has seen people come and go, and describes that jokingly, “I say that sometimes life gets in the way of your fight career. People get married, have kids, get jobs in other places.”
Facts and gym statistics
Although the Knockout Factory may be rather small in size, Tome said that it is fairly well-known throughout the country, stating that it has held 14 events since the opening, and once the Seneca Nation decided to regulate MMA, cage fights have been held there.
The gym has three main head coaches, and each has a different area of expertise. Tome is the head mixed martial arts coach. He is trained in other areas as well, and years ago he entered some grappling tournaments in New York and was ranked No. 3 in the state. Brad Stahlman is the head boxing coach and Art Vulgimore, a former U.S. Navy Seal, specializes in kickboxing. Both Tome and Stahlman have certifications in other areas as well, such as refereeing, showing the gym’s trainers are all-around proficient.
The coaches volunteer their time and money to better the lives of young men and women who wish to better themselves. And while boxing and the various forms of martial arts may be considered ‘dangerous’ to some, Tome said his gym has found quite the opposite to be true.
“We’ve had a pretty good record as far as the fighters go, and no one’s ever been seriously injured,” he said. “It’s real fulfilling for us coaches to have something like this to be a part of.”
Following that line of logic, the gym’s Web site shows how amateur boxing is actually quite safe. Amateur boxers wear a mouthpiece and headgear at all times in the ring. The officials continuously evaluate the boxers’ statuses in the ring, and their gloves are made of padded material. Studies have shown, also, that the fatality rate among boxers is quite low.
Tome said that one of the gym’s members hails from Angola, N.Y., and frequently makes the 90-minute drive to train, noting that this member had been to different gyms and likes the Knockout Factory the best. He’s not the only member to come from elsewhere, whether it be New York or Pennsylvania.
“A lot of people come from out of town,” he said. “We have about a dozen people from Allegany, Portville, Olean, Bolivar, Hinsdale, Shinglehouse, Smethport. We have a lot of people from out that way.”
Tome said that some of the fighters at his gym are receiving offers to fight professional UFC fighters, one of which is looking at a $2,000 cash should he accept the fight against pro Jon Fitch. Tome said his guy likely wouldn’t win the fight, but “that’s the level some of them are at.”
Also, Tome said that some of his fighters have trained at UFC training centers, giving them an opportunity to learn a lot from the best guys out there.
Tome’s gym has a family-oriented atmosphere, evidenced by the fact that three members of the Stahlman family train and compete there. With that kind of mood at the gym, there’s a sense of positivity throughout, a symbiotic relationship where not only do the coaches help the young athletes, but they assist each other among themselves.
“I always say, ‘if you know, teach and if you don’t know, then listen,’” Tome said.
This kind of attitude reigns supreme at the gym and allows the fighters to maintain a sense of pride, responsibility and humility, traits that are instilled in everyone right from the start.
“When you compete, one of the first things you have to learn is to be humble,” Tome said. “Everybody that comes in here isn’t going to be the toughest guy at first. They have to humble themselves and realize they have a lot to learn. Usually that’s a big hurdle for people. It’s a process, one that we all enjoy helping people with.”
Written by Jeff Madigan