From time to time, Cagewriter will visit the gyms, dojos and academies that churn out the world's best fighters and tell you all about them. We call it Gym Class, but don't worry. You won't be expected to complete the Presidential Fitness Test at the end.
I visited Duke Roufus' Roufus Sport Academy on one of the first hot days to hit Milwaukee this summer. The temperature was above 90 degrees and the humidity was high, but that did nothing to quell the training going on inside the gym that features UFC fighters Pat Barry, Alan Belcher, Matt Mitrione and the WEC's Anthony Pettis among its members.
In the middle of it all is Duke Roufus, the kickboxing guru who runs the gym and has helped his fighters to a winning streak. When I arrived, he was in the middle of meeting new members, greeting me and getting Barry for an interview while also running a Muay Thai class. Somehow, he gave undivided attention to each task.
He gave a practical application to each move he taught his students. When showing how to use a knee in certain fight scenarios, he mentioned how Pettis, Barry or Belcher incorporated those moves in a fight.
Barry, who will face Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic next weekend at UFC 115, credits Roufus for creating a gym where fighters can exceed expectations.
"We love where we're from. I've been at gyms all over the planet, and I'll never go anywhere else. Duke has put together a winning program," Barry told Cagewriter.
The environment of the gym is decidedly diva-free. Barry, who made $120,000 in bonuses in his last UFC bout, isn't above leading warm-ups and instructing members on technique. Pettis is coming off two wins in a row, but doesn't currently have a fight scheduled, so he is working on his jiu-jitsu skills, taking the beginner classes with all the other white and blue belts.
Pettis explained that when training for a fight, he has to focus on no-gi training, so to advance his belt, he needs more gi training. Despite the fact that his last win was with a triangle choke, Pettis sat patiently in class, learning everything he could.
Barry says that the relationship among the Roufus Sport fighters is more than teammates. He looks at his fellow fighters as family, and they can count on each other for more than just training.
"We're a gang here. We're a family here. Everybody here, we train with each other, we push each other to the limit, but then we see each other outside of practice. On the weekends, we have gatherings, we have lunch, everybody's phone is on and available for my late-night, strung-out phone calls, talking about how I don't want this fight and I need more time. My phone is on and available for the guys who are having their moments.
"There's a real unity here. It's not just a bunch of guys who train together."