A touch of ultimate fighting in the Hudson Valley. A Mixed Martial Arts legend opens a studio in the middle of a controversy regarding the sport. Our Elaina Athans has more.
WALLKILL, N.Y. -- Doors officially open at the Renzo Gracie Mixed Martial Arts Academy. It was two years in making and part of a lifelong mission for the studio's namesake.
“My dream since I was a little child was to teach people and every time I see one of these popping up it makes me very happy," said MMA professional fighter Renzo Gracie.
Gracie is a legend within the MMA professional arena and even fought bare knuckle in a cage. Some techniques Gracie used in the ring will be taught at the facility.
"The kids are going to learn self discipline, focus and self-esteem," said academy owner Bernard Colletti.
The academy is opening as MMA as a sport is becoming a controversial talking point in New York State. Right now, there's a ban but that could be changing.
The Senate passed a bill to legalized MMA fighting. It's currently being reviewed by the Assembly. Supporters argue a ban sends fighters to other states to compete and New York loses out on much needed revenue. Opponents say it's just too dangerous.
"Martial arts are great things, but not ultimate fighting," said Assemblyman Bob Reilly.
The Town of Wallkill studio does not offer actual MMA classes.
"If you learn muay thai and you learn jiu jitsu and you learn wrestling, if you combine the three, that’s mixed martial arts. But that’s not what I’m teaching here. I'm teaching each individual martial arts," said Colletti.
Folks can take in a sample Saturday. Free clinics are being provided as the grand opening festivities continue. Gracie says the studio is more than a place to simply fight.
"If you want to get your kids and yourself to build some confidence, this is the right place to do it," said Gracie.