There’s little doubt that on this particular afternoon Choi “The Korean Superboy” Doo-ho rules the roost that has been set up for the fighter and other assorted like-minded individuals in a small and disconcertingly yellow hued basement tucked away down a Seo-gu backstreet.
A Team MAD MMA training session is underway and that means pretty much a free-for-all as fighters pair off and go at it over five minute rounds. The recipe laid down by the coaches is: find a partner, fight, break briefly, and repeat. With a 14-3 record in the UFC and one of the planet’s most exciting mixed martial artists, the 26-year-old Choi is laying things on pretty hard against some lesser lights.
But fighting, South Korean style, is built on the adage that by the time you actually enter a cage for a real fight, all the hard work – and the punishment – has been laid down. Nothing, it would appear, is harder than what you might face in workouts.
That’s just the way Choi likes it, and the reason Team MAD gyms have forged such a fierce global reputation since they started sprouting up in Busan under the watchful gaze of coach Yang Sung-hoon in 2005.
“Look around,” says Choi. “There’s not much equipment here and nothing to distract you from what we all here to do. We come to fight and to improve the way we fight. Once you step inside that is all you need to care about.”
Increasingly, there seems to be a crowd of interested international MMA fighters – both amateur and of the paid kind – who want to visit Team MAD and find out what it’s all about, and what draws the likes of Choi, fellow UFC star Kim “Stun Gun” Dong-hyun (22-4-1), and Road FC’s current atomweight champion Ham Seo-hee (18-8) through its doors.
So, for your reading pleasure, here’s the story of Team MAD’s creation. From the man himself.
“I always had a dream that I would be a leader,” says Yang. “I travelled around a lot abroad to see how gyms operate. Unlike general gyms, we train, manage, create and develop professional MMA athletes and they have to buy into the culture and ideology of Team Mad.”