Renzo Gracie Academy Of Brooklyn Puts The Fight Back In Fitness

It has only been two months since the Renzo Gracie Fight Academy of Brooklyn opened its doors at 100 Bayard Street in Williamsburg, but in that short period of time, the mixed martial arts (MMA) and fitness center has already amassed a devoted cast of around 400 members, taught by a team of 35 employees with backgrounds in everything from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA, Muay Thai, boxing, Judo and wrestling to exercise science, nutrition and women’s self-defense.

According to owner and Williamsburg resident Joseph Katz, he and Gracie – a renowned and retired professional mixed martial artist and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter from Brazil – brought the academy to Brooklyn “because there was no real gym in the area,” and especially not one with what he says is the quality and value of the Renzo Gracie brand, facilities and staff.

“People are always asking for a place in Brooklyn and some people go to different gyms for each [type of class]. Here, everything is under one roof: classes, sparring, Muay Thai, boxing, everything. Our membership gives members unlimited access to all classes,” said Katz, who added that the state-of-the-art facilities, complete with designer locker rooms, juice bar and on-site fight shop, was built for students of all ages, experience and gender.

Workout space is spread throughout 4,000 square feet of open mat space, a 2,000 square foot custom designed cage equipped for pro-level grappling, dummies and punching bags, a boxing ring, and a full fitness facility with personal training space.

“Our main focus is on environment. A lot of gyms have an ego, but here, it is a family,” said Katz, who began training himself over five years ago after deciding that he needed to be able to defend himself. “There are no brown belts versus black belts. Everyone talks to everybody.”

For example, when there is a n MMA fight on TV, “everyone watches together: kids, cops, fighters,” he said. “People come from Long Island, Bronx, Manhattan, New Jersey, even if they have a closer gym [because] we’re not just about fighting. This is people who want to work out and have fun.”

In addition to a schedule of regular individual classes, the Academy offers a summer day camp for youth and four personalized training programs: the Victory Fighter Program, the White Collar Program, the Female Fitness Program, and the Young Fighter Program. Each program caters to a specific skill and goal set, while also having shared goals of instilling strength, discipline, respect, and focus.

If you are serious about pursuing professional fighting career in MMA, the Victory Fighter Program is for you. Access to UFC trained fighters such as Rafael “Sapo” Natal, as well as personal trainers and demonstrations by MMA celebrities will give you the skills and support necessary to build your career.

Sapo, 29, is an MMA instructor from Brazil who trained in Capoeira, then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and then MMA. At age 12, he was already the world champion blue belt, and now trains and teaches at Renzo Gracie Fight Academy in Brooklyn. “It’s good when you train in your home base,” said Sapo, who teaches an MMA class of 30 to 35 students regularly and runs his own school back in Brazil. “I want to open one in America, too, and my goal is to win the UFC championship in a few years.”

The White Collar Program is structured for the working man or woman whose main opponent is work-related stress and who wants a whole body workout that uses more than just bikes and treadmills while also incorporating MMA techniques and training from professional athletes and nutritionists.

Similarly, the Female Fitness Program, is also designed to address the needs of non-professional individuals who range in athletic ability from beginners to the more advanced athlete. One of the classes offered for women is the Women Warrior class, which a body conditioning workout that includes running, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, calisthenics, plyometrics drills, animal movements and stretching. According to trainer Ellie Bautista, “this class develops a base level for better cardio, stamina and endurance.”

Bautista, who started out as a runner in high school track in Queens before becoming a blue belt in Jiu Jitsu, explained that the program, which has 10 women enrolled so far, has the goals of losing weight, self-defense, having fun and accountability. “It’s a group environment for women who are hesitant to try out marital arts,” she said, before adding that “it’s also about learning that as you are working out, it’s not just about this, but also a need to eat healthy – that you don’t half-ass things.”

This theme of instilling discipline, confidence and self-respect carries through in the Young Fighter Program, which offers supervised classes after-school and on weekends for children in their teens and younger.

It is also present at Camp Gracie, a nine-week summer day camp for kids aged six through 16 where students get two daily classes in martial arts, plus field trips, activities, and swimming and indoor/outdoor sports. There will also be talent shows for kids to show off their new skills to friends and family. The program launches for the first time on July 2, running through August 31 and has 30 seats available.

When you visit the Academy, make sure to stop by the East Coast MMA Fight Shop in the lobby, where you can try on and feel popular brands of official shoes, clothes and gloves in different sizes, styles and colors, in addition to exercise supplements. The store is one of only a few in New York.

For more information, visit 100 Bayard Street, call 718-704-0631, email [email protected] or visit

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