Retired mixed martial arts champ teaches kids self-defense

Grady Sue Hurley spars with student Loren Hancock during a boxing class Tuesday at the UFM Gym. 

Afternoons and evenings are busy at the UFM (Ultimate Fighting & Mixed Martial Arts) gym on McCullough Boulevard. Owner and head coach Grady Sue Hurley said there is a definite trend toward boxing instruction at the gym; that’s true for both men and women, as well as children of both genders. Also offered are Brazilian jiujitsu, wrestling and various kickboxing disciplines, including Muay Thai kickboxing. For $79 a month, participants can join in any or all the offerings; a 20 percent discount is applied to annual contracts. Hurley said there are about 180 gym members, a number that has grown steadily during the six years he has owned the enterprise. “I help with instruction and like the people here,” said 16-year-old Maille (Miley) Bibeau, who is regularly at the gym. Her little sister, 5-year-old Sine, and brother, 8-year-old Kieran, also train at the gym with the youth group, Young Spartans. Of her sister, Maille said, “She’ll be the baddest little girl in elementary school. She says, ‘I want to be a wrestle girl.’” Indeed, there is a palpable air of camaraderie at UFM; participants seem to genuinely like each other even though they may be duking it out or pinning each other to the expansive mats. The youngsters obviously have a ball while they train and before and after their Monday (Brazilian jiujitsu), Wednesday (wrestling) and Friday (mixed martial arts) sessions. “I believe it’s the culture and environment,” Hurley said of the obvious dedication of members to the various disciplines. He credits the coaches in the disciplines with fostering the intense interest in the regimens. One, for example, is wrestling coach Brian Fox who wrestled competitively here and in Croatia and is working with the Amateur Athletic Union to have the ancient Greco-Roman wrestling style reintroduced in the Mississippi public schools; the sport was discontinued in schools years ago. Hurley, 40, is a retired mixed martial arts and boxing champion: “I was overweight in high school and president of the computer club,” he said of a high school career that was, at best, lackluster. “I was 100 pounds overweight when I graduated and I won’t ever forget the feeling of being picked on.” No one picks on him anymore. He developed an interest in martial arts and began competing after a period of training. He had to leave the sport after having a bad automobile accident. Some years later, his wife April convinced him to return to the sport; he credits her with supporting him in competition and deciding to buy the gym. Their daughters, 15-year-old Vanna and 14-year-old Addison, were also participants at the gym. Hurley said he is confident they are capable of defending themselves in the event they find themselves in a confrontation. Hurley wants to same for his Young Spartans: “It helps build self confidence while teaching bully-proofing,” he said. “The best thing (about the gym) is the coach,” said David Bibeau, father of Maille, Kiernan and Sine. “He knows how to teach.”

For more information about UFM programs, call 662-680-4848.

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