MMA in Small-Town USA? Hey, It’s the American Way

Dotted throughout the country are a series of small towns. And while they may seem nondescript to most people, they all have their own intricacies and reason for being.

Still, it may make someone wonder why anyone would start a mixed martial arts gym in a small town, far from the bright lights of Las Vegas and the big stage of the UFC, but that’s what Jack Montgomery has done.

Jack Montgomery

Jack Montgomery

If you don’t recognize his name, don’t feel bad. Jack himself admits, “I’m not a huge name. I’ve gotten a lot of good results with grappling tournaments and fights, but even in my hometown I’m not a household name.”

So why has Montgomery, a veteran of King of the Cage and Gladiator Challenge, returned to Winnemucca (pronounced win-uh-muck-uh), literally in the middle of nowhere in the Northern Nevadan desert, to start his own gym, Fighters Pro Shop East?

“Basically what it was, I got offered a job at the mines I couldn’t turn down, and if I wanted a place to train, I had to open my own place, because there’s nothing up here,” said Montgomery.

“As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve always been sort of a better coach. I’m a good competitor, but there still is that one notch/level that seems to get me. I’m very patient, so I’m a very good teacher.”

And so it is that Montgomery has brought MMA to small town America, but not without its share of concerns.

For one, most people would think that being in a town with a population of around 10,000 would make it difficult to get people in the door, but not so according to Montgomery.

“I’m really the only person here, so the size doesn’t really hurt me too bad because I don’t really have any competition,” he said. “If there were another gym or two, it would be difficult.”

Montgomery points out that it’s the industry that employs the majority of the townspeople that creates his biggest obstacle.

“The talent is easy to find; anywhere you live you’ll find talent,” said Montgomery. “For this area, the only real difficulty that I see is that it’s a mining community.

“Between the weird days they work, the night schedules, the swing shifts, day shifts changing all the time, it’s hard for them to get acclimated and be consistent.”

Not being a well known name in the sport has also presented its challenges to establishing his gym.

“You get a lot of guys in these small towns who try to open an MMA gym who have no experience, so they give the whole town a bad taste to the whole MMA experience,” said Montgomery. “I’ve had to build and prove my creditability.”

Unlike fighters in the upper echelons of the UFC and Strikeforce, Montgomery is one of the majority of athletes who has to hold down a regular job to provide for his family in addition to his duties of running his own gym primarily by himself. This understandably comes with its own stresses.

“Anyone who has put an honest to God effort in this sport will know the sacrifices and hardships it puts on a family,” he said. “I’m sure anyone that’s been married and tried to do this sport can probably confess to coming close to losing their marriage a couple times because of the commitment level it takes to do this.”

While it may seem like light years away from the televised pageantry of MMA’s biggest stage, what Montgomery and countless others are trying to achieve in the homeland is no less important to the continued growth and success of the sport.

“All I say is give every gym a shot,” concluded Montgomery. “Just because they’re in a small town or don’t have a top name coach, doesn’t mean they don’t have a great program. I’ve trained at a lot of small gyms that have great caliber coaching.

“Go out and give them a try, because anywhere there’s a good instructor, you’re bound to learn something from it.”