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Visalia’s Darren Crisp hopes to start a new phase in MMA career with new role as gym owner

Darren Crisp’s professional mixed martial arts career spanned roughly nine years. The Visalia-based fighter made a name for himself in the Central Valley as one of the more dangerous strikers in the area, recording five knockouts in his 11 victories.

Crisp fought 21 times in his career, posting an 11-10 record. He made his debut May 15, 2005, and fought for the last time June 20, 2014.

And now, just about 10 years after his final professional fight, Crisp, 43, is looking to impart the knowledge and wisdom he has gained over the years as a trainer to a new generation of fighters.

Crisp Kickboxing Muay Thai MMA celebrated its grand opening Saturday at 3640 S. Mooney Boulevard in Visalia.

“That’s the big goal — May 18,” Crisp said. “I want to make sure it’s a good opening. I just want some of the guys out here doing some light training and maybe get a DJ. My mom wants a ribbon cutting, but I don’t know about all that. Maybe when I get a bigger gym.”

Visalia's Darren Crisp recently opened his new gym Crisp Kickboxing Muay Thai MMA at 3640 S. Mooney Boulevard Suite B in Visalia. Crisp is a nine-year MMA veteran with a black belt in Muay Thai.
Visalia's Darren Crisp recently opened his new gym Crisp Kickboxing Muay Thai MMA at 3640 S. Mooney Boulevard Suite B in Visalia. Crisp is a nine-year MMA veteran with a black belt in Muay Thai.

Crisp’s gym has been five years in the making. He said it was March of 2019 when he lost his job and his wife told him to get back to work as a trainer. She encouraged him to buy some mats, put them in their garage and start training some fighters.

“It’s been a transition,” Crisp said. “Going from fighting for 10 years and holding some jobs here and there to going full-time into the work field, it was different. Then I lost my job and my wife told me to go get some mats. She told me, ‘I’m tired of going places where people want you to train them. We need to open up our own gym.’”

So, for the past five years, Crisp has spent his time building to the moment of opening up his own gym away from the comfort of his own garage. He started with three fighters. He now has anywhere between 10-14 competitors training with him and upwards of 30 clients/students altogether.

Visalia's Darren Crisp recently opened his new gym Crisp Kickboxing Muay Thai MMA at 3640 S. Mooney Boulevard Suite B in Visalia. Crisp is a nine-year MMA veteran with a black belt in Muay Thai.
Visalia's Darren Crisp recently opened his new gym Crisp Kickboxing Muay Thai MMA at 3640 S. Mooney Boulevard Suite B in Visalia. Crisp is a nine-year MMA veteran with a black belt in Muay Thai.

“I welcome anybody and everybody,” Crisp said about who his gym is for. “I’ll take soccer moms, soccer dads, kids who want to learn self-defense. I want everybody. I’m hoping I can eventually go to schools and help troubled teens because I was a troubled teen once.”

Crisp is a black belt-trained Muay Thai fighter under the tutelage of Doug Marshall and Rafael Cordeiro out of Kings MMA in Huntington Beach. He has had the privilege of training with the likes of Marshall, Cordeiro, former UFC champion Fabricio Werdum and MMA legend Wanderlei Silva.

“Not to brag, but the proof is in the pudding with the guys I have trained with,” Crisp said.

There is no time for boasting for Crisp and his stable of fighters. With a new gym opening and a couple of mixed martial arts shows coming to Visalia, Crisp is a busy man.

On May 24, 559 Fights returns to the Visalia Convention Center for an amateur mixed martial arts show. It is night one of a two-night event at the convention center with Urijah Faber’s A1 Combat taking over May 25 with a night of professional fights. UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber is scheduled to compete in the main event in a jiu-jitsu match.

Crisp has four fighters scheduled to compete on the May 24 559 Fights card — Tyler Saelee (3-1-1), Matt Martinez (2-3), Chris Gregg (1-0) and Quentin Armstrong (1-2). He also has two fighters scheduled to compete on the May 25 A1 Combat card — Bryce Gonzales (0-0) and Shane Christie (2-0).

Visalia's Darren Crisp recently opened his new gym Crisp Kickboxing Muay Thai MMA at 3640 S. Mooney Boulevard Suite B in Visalia. Crisp is a nine-year MMA veteran with a black belt in Muay Thai.
Visalia's Darren Crisp recently opened his new gym Crisp Kickboxing Muay Thai MMA at 3640 S. Mooney Boulevard Suite B in Visalia. Crisp is a nine-year MMA veteran with a black belt in Muay Thai.

One person excited about Crisp opening a new gym is 559 Fights owner Jeremy Luchau, who has been involved with mixed martial arts for just about 20 years now as a writer, fighter, manager and promoter.

“When I learned Darren was coaching and sharing knowledge with the younger generations, I was extremely excited,” Luchau said. “Darren was always a great athlete to work with in my time managing his career, and he brings a great style to these athletes.”

It is not lost on Luchau that the upcoming 559 Fights and A1 Combat shows can be a huge moment for Crisp, his gym and his fighters.

“This could be a breakout show for Darren and his team,” Luchau said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of his continued success.”

Visalia's Darren Crisp recently opened his new gym Crisp Kickboxing Muay Thai MMA at 3640 S. Mooney Boulevard Suite B in Visalia. Crisp is a nine-year MMA veteran with a black belt in Muay Thai.
Visalia's Darren Crisp recently opened his new gym Crisp Kickboxing Muay Thai MMA at 3640 S. Mooney Boulevard Suite B in Visalia. Crisp is a nine-year MMA veteran with a black belt in Muay Thai.

It is definitely an exciting time for Crisp, who is a mixed martial arts pioneer in the Central Valley. But with all of the ups and downs Crisp has had in the cage, he says the nerves of watching his fighters step into the cage don’t compare with anything he ever dealt with.

“It is way more nerve-wracking as a coach,” he said. “I get way more nervous for them than I ever did before a fight. They train hard to get to a fight and you want them to go out there and perform and put it all together. My thing is, win, lose or draw, you need to go out there and have a good experience.”

This article originally appeared on Visalia Times-Delta: Darren Crisp hopes to start a new phase in MMA career as gym owner