Sonora MMA and the Tuolumne County Recreation Department are teaming up for the first time ever to offer a special series of mixed martial arts classes and boot camps this summer.
The joint effort benefits county-sponsored recreational programs while promoting Sonora MMA and showing the community a different side of the sport than the one commonly displayed on television or in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
"We're trying to do some different things to expand Sonora MMA and show people it's not a scary place to be," said Kelly Bunnell, a longtime member of the gym at 78 S. Washington St., who organized the summer programs along with the recreation department.
Registration opened Monday for the new MMA programs, which include two-week beginner, intermediate and advanced level boot camps intended to teach participants MMA fundamentals such as body mechanics, nutrition education and strength and conditioning workouts.
Another special deal being offered this summer through the recreation department is the choice of any one of Sonora MMA's regularly scheduled classes two days per week from June 3 to July 31 for $100.
Classes range from instructional kickboxing to women's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Kajukenbo - a hybrid martial art that incorporates Western boxing - for teens and adults, with a full schedule available on the recreation department website atwww.tcrecreation.com.
"It's a community of people who are really into fitness," Bunnell said of the Sonora gym founded in 2008 by Tom Theofanopoulos, who also owns sister locations in Oakdale and Merced. "Some us are there just for the exercise and to get in shape, while some want to train and eventually fight. A lot of parents enter their kids in Sonora MMA for the discipline it teaches and to give them an activity to do."
Bunnell added that Sonora MMA often provides self-defense and abduction prevention workshops for children and women as well.
The partnership between the gym and county came about when Bunnell saw a post on Facebook from the recreation department calling on the community for ideas to help raise money for its programs.
"It's great to see how this is going to benefit both sides," Bunnell said. "It's something new they can offer the community and use to help fund their programs, while also giving us the opportunity to access people who wouldn't have even approached us before."
Bunnell said the move has been part of a push toward increasing membership at Sonora MMA with hopes of expanding in the future. Another way the gym is hoping to reach out to the community is by showing free movies at the gym this summer starting with "Legend of the Guardians" on May 31.
Bunnell hopes those people attracted to the gym through the county programs will provide their input regarding any specific types of classes or class times they would like to see offered.
"There's a large portion of the community that doesn't know we exist or at least isn't aware that we are more than just MMA," she said. "We think that by being more involved in the community and offering these classes it will help increase interest."