In the corner of the business complex on Centre Avenue in Rockland, the entrance to South Shore Sport Fighting looks like that of any another business.

In the corner of the business complex on Centre Avenue in Rockland, the entrance to South Shore Sport Fighting looks like that of any another business.

Inside, however, there are men punching, kicking and wrestling each other, and some of the fighting’s taking place inside a giant cage.

“It’s actually what you’d see on TV, on Ultimate Fighting,” co-owner Scott Lockhart said of mixed martial arts, which is a combination of wrestling, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu and other fighting forms.

In fact, several fighters who have trained at the Rockland gym have performed in televised matches, including Josh Grispi, 20, who has been training with Lockhart since he was 13.

At 17, Grispi was the youngest fighter in New Hampshire to both enter an MMA fight, and win one. And on his 18th birthday, he was the youngest to take part in a fight in Massachusetts.

Today Grispi participates in World Extreme Cage Fighting, which is available for viewing on the Versus cable channel.

Another fighter, Marshfield resident Eric Foley, 39, said he learned of the sport from a fellow prison guard at the Plymouth Correctional Facility five years ago.

“I love training, it’s a lot of fun,” Foley said. “A lot of good guys train here. It keeps me young, keeps me in shape. It’s the best hobby you could have. Some people like fishing, I like doing this.”

Though he’s worked as a prison guard since 2001, Foley said he’s never had to use his MMA fighting skills outside of the ring.

Foley won a reality fighting title as a heavyweight in January of 2008. Although he lost the title several months later, Foley said he’s excited to participate in an upcoming rematch in two weeks.

Lockhart said he and co-owner Bill Mahoney have helped to train world-class fighters from South Shore Sport Fighting, and the fighting studio has an estimated record of 200 wins versus 50 losses.

“I did it, and most people do it, because it’s fun,” Mahoney said. “I know that sounds odd.”

In addition to the entertainment value, the MMA training has helped many of the fighters at the Rockland facility lose an average of 40 to 50 pounds each. Most of the fighters train three or four days per week, and many of them lost the weight in under a year, Mahoney added. 

Lockhart and Mahoney went into business in 2001, originally renting space at a karate studio in Whitman.

They opened in Rockland in 2006, and today, they cater to nearly 200 students.

Eight of those athletes are females.   “Time to get more,” Mahoney said. “We’re actually starting women-specific classes soon.”

Women’s classes, which are set to begin in mid July, will cost $150 for two months of instruction, and $125 for a woman who signs up with a friend. The classes are meant to teach fighting techniques, Mahoney said, and are not intended simply as a new way to work out.

“Basically we’re teaching them like a regular fighter, without all the bumps and bruises,” Lockhart said.

Mahoney said he originally learned fighting skills 15 years ago, though back then mixed martial arts fighting was not the sport that it is today.

“Seventy-five percent of what we do we learn off videos,” Lockhart said.

“Ten years ago, no one knew what it was,” Mahoney said. “Now they come in knowing a few moves they were using on their brother in the back yard.”

Mahoney and Lockhart said they believe MMA fighting is becoming more popular because it uses martial arts skills while also teaching fighting techniques that are not taught as part of karate.

“They show techniques how to beat somebody up. We actuallybeat somebody up, but it’s not that bad,” Mahoney said. “When you’re wrestling, you’re going 100 percent. It’s controlling.”

Scott said MMA fighting is useful in thwarting a would-be attacker because although karate teaches how one can strike an adversary – whether a kick to the groin or a gauge to the eye - mixed martial arts teaches a fighter to continue fighting even if the initial strikes don’t take an attacker down.

“Humans are a lot more durable than you’d think,” Lockhart said.

Unlimited classes cost $65 per month, and South Shore Sport Fighting is open every day, including holidays.

Children’s classes cost $50 per month, for children ages 6 through 14.

South Shore Sport Fighting is at 333 Centre Avenue in Rockland. By phone, they can be reached at (781) 264-3787.

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Rockland Standard