AS Mixed Martial Arts continues its rapid rise in popularity, a club in Accrington is aiming to become the sport’s northern headquarters - with the help of UFC superstar Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping.
James Hey and Ian Longson, who have both been trained by Bisping in the past, have transformed the East Lancashire Predator Club from a minimalistic gym to one of the leading MMA clubs in the country in little over six months.
The Gillies Street establishment is now the first fully-equipped mixed martial arts centre in the area, boasting a new 16ft cage as well as a 16ft boxing ring and a large matted training area.
Close friend of the club Bisping, 30, from Clitheroe, won international MMA competition ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ in 2006, beating off competition from the USA and England to become the televised programme’s second light-heavyweight champion and earn himself a UFC contract.
Longson, who has helped prepare Bisping for his fight against Dennis Kang and his upcoming bout against UFC Wanderlai Silva, is ranked in the top 10 kickboxers in the country with 18 years experience in the sport, winning several belts.
Hey has a background in ground fighting and wrestling and is a British Sombo Championship silver medallist and a gold medallist in Ju Jitsu.
This is in the past now as James said: "All my wrestling now is specific for the cage fighting and between me and Ian we have found a perfect blend and style for the Mixed Martial Arts. We have worked to give our growing stable of fighters exactly what they need in coaching and facilities."
Experienced cage fighter and boxer Rob Freedman also coaches at the club and the determined team are enthusiastic. Their mission is to make the Predator Club ‘the toughest and most recognised club in the north of England’, according to Hey.
2010 is already shaping up to be an excellent year for The Predators, as three of the clubs fighters - including Hey - will feature on the card at Xtreme Kombat Show in the Lake District at the weekend.
The club will then feature heavily in Accrington’s Cage Conflict event on the 20 February.
The club is also set to host an exciting series of regular seminars, with headline speakers such as Brian Talbot, Dale Wood and Bisping himself.
And James, Ian and Rob are looking forward to Seni 2010, the biggest martial arts exhibition in Europe. And to add to their ever growing list of awards, the club are leading the UK MMA League and the East Lancs Predators are confident they will be crowned champions, with the final event in May.
For more information on East Lancs Predators contact Ian Longson on 07754 274792.
East Lancs Predators would like to thank DMC Scaffolding, Autoracks, What Dent, Cage Conflict and XL for helping them establish the club.