YARMOUTH - The sounds of boxing gloves striking pads again and again, feet shuffling on the mats and encouraging words from the instructor fill the fight gym in Dayton.
Owner Adam Hazelton opened District 34 MMA in July and has steadily been adding new members and classes.
He says the women’s classes have been growing “like crazy” lately and there is a “great balance of men, women and youth.
“We’re already outgrowing our space,” he says.
The MMA stands for mixed martial arts, a sport which was illegal in some Canadian provinces until 2013. Matches could be savage, brutal and gory before rules and regulations were established.
In 2017, the Combat Sports Authority Act brought supervision and regulations to combat sports, including boxing and mixed martial arts, in line with the Criminal Code of Canada.
Hazelton says a fight gym is not a place for people to come to brawl.
“It’s a space to come and properly train in a controlled environment, to learn how to fight or to defend yourself in various disciplines. These include boxing, Muay Thai (kickboxing) and MMA.
Unlike other gyms where people go to work out and lift weights, District 34 MMA has organized classes focusing on technique, skill and discipline, ranging from beginners to advanced, all ages, all abilities.
Hazelton’s background in MMA started when he was 15 “messing around in basements.” After Mike Kent opened an MMA gym in Yarmouth around 2010, Hazelton had his first fight.
That led to an intro to Titans MMA in Halifax.
“I began travelling to Halifax every other week to train at Titans and Maramac in Truro to gain more knowledge and have coaches,” he says.
“I then fought my way to a 4-1 record, won a Canadian title for lightweight division, then moved out west and trained with Hayabusa in St. Albert, Alberta, for a few years.”
Hazelton returned to the Maritimes and continued training and focusing on his fight career. He now holds a professional record of 5-2.
Hazelton sees the gym as a great place for people to come and work out any frustrations, anger or any other issues they may be struggling with.
“It’s also a great place to just shut the outside world out for a bit and focus on training. We’re hoping the gym will become a safe go-to place for youth, to help keep them out of trouble and have them focus on self-discipline, working hard, feeling good about themselves and exploring the world of amateur or professional fighting.”
He has students as young as six and others who are several generations older.
“We would love to have senior classes if the community showed interest,” he says.
Kids boxing and kickboxing and MMA, co-ed beginner and competitive boxing, Muay Thai, women’s boxing classes, strength and conditioning classes and box-fit classes are offered. One-on-one sessions are also available. Family rates are available.
“We realize that not everyone has the means to come to train and we don’t want anyone to feel they can’t come due to financial hardships,” Hazelton says.
Headgear, mouth guards, boxing gloves/hand wraps, shin pads, groin protectors and chest protectors (for women) are all required for training/sparring at the gym.
Kirsta Morris, Hazelton’s partner, is the behind-the-scene person, handling the logistics and media relations.
She says she tries to train with Hazelton five to six days a week.
“Hopefully, down the road, I’ll be able to start teaching some beginner classes.
“Our goal is to eventually branch out and have some satellite sites in the tri-counties,” she says.
Hazelton and Morris are excited about a Dec. 2 workshop (cost $40) with UFC fighter Gavin Tucker that will provide an “amazing opportunity” for students and is also open to the community. The workshop runs from noon to 3 p.m.
“Having people such as Gavin coming here allows for youth, all ages really, to see that there are other sports available to explore,” Hazelton says. “The fight world is seen as violent, but so much more comes with it, it’s a huge commitment, focus, self-discipline and it’s not all about winning. Winning is great, but you learn just as much from the loss.”
More events and classes are planned for the future as the gym continues to grow.