Undefeated Strikeforce welterweight Tyron Woodley recently undertook a challenge of a different kind – gym ownership. The American Top Team standout opened a new branch of his parent-trainers, American Top Team, in his hometown St. Louis, MO. ATT: Evolution opened its doors on December 17, in time for Christmas and New Years, and featured festivities featuring the likes of Marcus Brimage and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Thiago Alves has followed Woodley up to help him get the gym started as well. Even more impressive than the names, “T-Wood” accomplished all of this while dealing with the announcement he would be fighting Jordan Mein at the January 7 Strikeforce event in Las Vegas.
Woodley sat down with FindMMAGym.com one afternoon discussing the opening and his wishes to build the American Top Team brand in the Midwest. The dream of opening the gym was one that resulted in a longer process than you would expect.
“I’ve been thinking about it for the last seven years,” said Woodley. “That was when it first came to my mind. In terms of getting it going. That process and finding a location was probably two and a half years.”
Setting up a gym in his own hometown was a great bonus but only a small added positive compared to spreading the message of American Top Team and promoting MMA as a great source of fitness.
“It was just getting people to understand the brand of ATT and the legacy they created for team atmospheres. Everybody in Missouri and St. Louis don’t yet know who American Top Team is yet. They ask, ‘What does (American Top Team) stand for?’ It’s kind of bringing them up to speed on the history behind the academy too.”
“It’s also showing them that MMA is something you can learn for all ages and skills,” the Mizzou Tiger stand-out continued. “Not just for amateur and pro fighters but something kids and adults can learn, and you don’t have to get punched in the face when you’re learning. We have a safe environment – It’s good, it’s clean. Safe for the kids. Safe for the moms and the dads to get in there and come in there and do their thing. That’s what we’ve been trying to brand and get across.”
Regularly, a localized gym might seem an advantageous benefit for a training fighter, but as owner Woodley admits there has been little lifted off his shoulders in that regard.
“I don’t know if it’s a strain off (my shoulders) at all” Woodley playfully responded. “In the beginning it’s really crazy. You’ve got to set the foundation to function whether you’re there or not. If it’s functioning it’s good, but if it’s not, it’s bad because I’m in the gym (training). I’m just trying to do the best I can to showcase my trainers, showcase my programs and what we offer. The facilities, the environment, so people really benefit from the gym itself, and less from me and the idea that ‘Tyron is the teacher.’ We want that to be an added bonus that they can actually be trained by a professional athlete, but we want you to come in because we have good instructors.”
It’s Woodley’s ultimate wish to turn ATT Evolution into the biggest and most effective gym it can be, gathering the strengths of his team and the community. He still believes there is a lot of room for growth in a sports rich city.
“I think overall it hasn’t happened,” Woodley said with regard to a potential “Halo Effect” with MMA in St. Louis. “You have the work ethic and dedication though. The St. Louis MMA community…we’ve got to do a better job of rallying up together, and building each others’ brands. I think once we get the concept…we’re far behind when it comes to Las Vegas or Florida and California and places like that in Mixed Martial Arts…we’ve got to pull together, get each individual athlete with their story out there. Get the fans behind them, do it collectively as a city. We’ll have plenty of opportunities”
Woodley paused for a moment and continued on with his long term wishes for ATT Evolution. “I want to reach capacity. Obviously, when you do something like this, you want to get to the point where you maximize your opportunity and that location,” he began before adding an equally important note. “I just want to increase fitness in the home, and to have families come together and leave together to be a better unit as a family. That’s a goal that I and all my trainers have in mind.”
Woodley closed by thanking all of the people that helped pull ATT Evolution up into where it is today.
“I want to thank all the people that supported me. Clinch Gear, ATT, my wife. I want to thank everybody that supports me and believes in me, and believes in the vision I have, because it’s been more than just training lately. I’m just really grateful for everything I have going into this fight for sure.”
ATT Evolution is located at:
9751 Manchester Road
Rock Hill, MO 63119
Phone: (314) 716-2186
Woodley meets Mein on the main card of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine, and will take place January 7, 2012 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event will be broadcast live on Showtime in the United States, and Superchannel in Canada.