In a recent Phoenix New Times article, the spotlight is on the surge of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) talent coming out of Phoenix, Arizona. Among the promising new fighters is Paul Marghitas, who has been training at the renowned MMA Lab since the age of 8. The young fighter’s dedication and hard work have earned him the attention and support of prominent figures in the MMA community, including RUF MMA promoter CJ Pitman and former UFC champion Benson Henderson.
The MMA Lab, located in a strip mall alongside a thrift store, pizza joint, and motel, has been producing top-notch UFC fighters for years. According to head coach John Crouch, the gym’s success stems from his belief that “every day in the gym is like putting a penny in a piggy bank.” Sometimes the pennies are shiny, sometimes they’re grungy, but ultimately, they are all worth the same, and the wealth of effort builds over time.
This philosophy seems to be working for Marghitas, who is determined to become the best in the world. The young fighter trains for up to six hours a day, honing his skills through sparring and classes, and supplements his training with jogging and weightlifting at home. His next fight is scheduled for May 19 at the Showroom at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler.
Marghitas’s dedication to the sport is not unique among young fighters in Phoenix. According to a study by MiddleEasy, a top UFC news website, Arizona is currently among the four “most UFC-obsessed” states. The growth of MMA in the area can be attributed to the establishment of the Arizona Boxing & MMA Commission in 2010, as well as the increasing popularity and mainstream acceptance of the sport. MMA is now attracting “actual sports fans,” rather than fans of individual fighters, leading to a rapidly expanding fanbase.
CJ Pitman, a local promoter, credits the high level of talent in Phoenix to the presence of world-renowned gyms like the MMA Lab. He believes that as more young children commit to becoming MMA fighters, the talent coming out of the city will continue to reach unprecedented heights. Former heavyweight champion Ryan Bader echoes this sentiment, stating, “These kids have been doing it their whole lives. They’re going to be so good by the time they’re 20, they’re going to elevate the whole sport.”
As the Phoenix MMA scene continues to grow and produce top-tier talent, it’s clear that the city is well on its way to becoming a premier destination for MMA training nationwide. With dedicated fighters like Paul Marghitas leading the charge, Phoenix may indeed become home to the “best in the world.”