Evolution Combat Club was my first MMA gym. I studied there in 2004, back when gyms were small, the sport was obscure, and rabbit punches were questionably legal. And I would have stayed with them if not for both myself and the gym making major location changes. So, when I found out head coach Doug Cota had opened a new location in Sayville, NY, I was already expecting to write positive things about it.
My biases out of the way, I was genuinely surprised at not only how far the gym had come, but how far the MMA community on Long Island had come. The mat area was able to comfortably fit 14 students all doing very mobile standup drills at once and the gym was fully stocked with equipment. They were even in the process of installing a cage which they expected to be finished by the weekend.
“I really lucked out with this place,” Coach Cota said, discussing the move from his location at Rocky Point. “I was driving by and saw this building that was all empty space and I’m thinking ‘That’s perfect.’”
How the gym went from empty space to the new Evolution Combat may have been the most impressive thing about it.
“I asked on the forums who new how to do anything [in construction], and anyone who knew something did,” Cota recounted. “It was like an Amish barn raising.”
The image of the community getting together to build a new center to train is a little counter to some media depictions of the sport. Especially since the primary argument against sanctioning professional matches in New York is that it’s a bad example for the state’s culture as a whole.
When I said I was surprised about how far the MMA community on Long Island had come to accomplish things like building a gym from scratch, I don’t mean in attitude. The kind of people willing go through the rigors of training have the heart and dedication for just about anything. I was surprised at the manpower.
Cota credits Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter for the increase in the number of students. “The show really boosted a lot of people’s interest in the sport.”
Evolution Combat Club is also showing solidarity with the rest of the local MMA community with cross training programs. Currently, Evolution Combat and Vertex Jiu Jitsu are sharing several students who are preparing for competition so they may benefit from both gyms’ specialties and experience.
Both gyms will also be taking part in the first New York MMA Expo at the Uniondale Marriott on August 2nd .
By: Peter Lampasona