New Year, New You, right?
We all have resolutions heading into 2022, and for many of us, those resolutions include joining a local gym. Some of us, of course, crave a little more than the treadmill or the elliptical for our workouts in 2022.
If you’re looking to join a gym to hone your fighting skills, Pittsburgh boasts plenty of options. Combat sports such as wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai represent some of the best workouts you can possibly give your body.
These sports are physical and grueling, and they’re taxing mentally just as they are physically. Sure, I’m sweating a little bit just thinking about it, but if you’re looking to burn some calories and get in shape, these martial arts will help you hit your goals in short order.
And the best news is this: Even if you don’t want to compete, the gyms on this list represent perfect places to sharpen your grappling and striking skills alongside some of the area’s best fighters.
Stepping onto the mats for the first time can be intimidating, but every gym listed here offers friendly, safe, and professional environments suitable for everyone from beginners to seasoned professionals (consider them 247 Fighting Championships-certified).
Steel City MMA is back on the rise, ladies and gentlemen, and these gyms are a major reason why.
In no particular order, here are six Pittsburgh-based gyms worth checking out to kickstart your grappling, striking, or MMA journey.*
* You might be asking, “Why six gyms, Hunter? Six is such a weird number. Can’t you just pick five?” The answer is no. No, I can’t. All six of these gyms deserve recognition, so all six gyms are getting it.
The Academy of Martial Arts and Fitness
Khama Worthy. Cody Garbrandt. Adam Milstead. John De Jesus. Mark Cherico.
When talking about Pittsburgh-based fighters who made it to the next level, you’ll quickly see that many of them developed their skills at the Academy.
Between the expert instruction of Dave Sachs, Christopher Williams, and company and the stable of talented training partners, The Academy established itself as Pittsburgh MMA royalty years ago and kept on chugging ever since.
The impressive alumni here is no coincidence. The Academy is flat-out one of the best gyms in Pittsburgh, and the results speak for themselves.
Today, you’ll find up-and-coming talent such as Chaka Worthy, Justin Patton, Craig Perry, Chase Boyde, Dalton Macri, and Miguel Francisco regularly honing their skills on the Academy’s mats.
Located in GreenTree at 24 Woodville Avenue, The Academy is just a short trip from downtown, making it the ideal location to begin your journey.
How to contact: Facebook | Instagram | Pittsburghacademy@outlook.com | 412-920-7426
The Mat Factory
If any gym in Pittsburgh can give the Academy’s notable alumni a run for its money, it’s Lower Burrell’s Mat Factory Wrestling Club.
UFC and Bellator veterans such as Chris Dempsey, Dominic Mazzotta, Steve Mowry, Dalton Rosta, and Cody Law have all called the Mat Factory home. Yeah, not too shabby.
The upcoming generation is in strong hands, too, with the likes of Jake Lowry, Vinny Dias, Trenton Zdarko, Cole Macek, Ferdaws Nayimi, Edwin Vera, Cheyenne Hall, Beksultan Egenberdiev, Julian Flenory, Justin Pippens, Cody Gamble, Evan DeLong, Chris Huselton, Peyton Manko, and more putting in work in Lower Burrell.
Just look at that list of names –– and then realize we could’ve kept going but didn’t want this post to look like a phone book.
The Mat Factory is simply loaded with talent –– past, present, and future –– and it’s all thanks to the expert guidance and knowledge of head coach/owner Isaac Greeley. Besides being an outstanding person, Greeley is one of the brightest minds you’ll find in the game, and his students are a reflection of the time and passion he puts into the Mat Factory on a daily basis.
While the Mat Factory is most known for its strong wrestling/grappling programs, there’s no doubt they can accommodate enthusiasts of all backgrounds and skill levels. You just can’t go wrong here.
How to contact: Facebook | Instagram | firstname.lastname@example.org | 724-272-5958
Want to watch these gyms in action? Our next event, Brawl in the Burgh 10, takes place Feb. 5 and features some of the area’s BEST fighters. These gyms will be well represented. Come see what they can do. (Tickets here)
Located at 393 Vanadium Road in Bridgeville, Indio Dojo might not have the local pedigree of those first two gyms here –– but it’s only a matter of time before they enter the fold. Indio is the newest player on the scene, and they’ve already made a big-time splash.
An absolute combat sports legend in Danillo Villefort runs the show there, and his high-level process shines through with all of his students. A third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo black belt who has competed for the UFC, Strikeforce, and PFL, it’s unlikely to find a more credentialed instructor than Villefort anywhere, let alone in Pittsburgh.
We already see Villefort’s influence with students such as Hope & Brigid Chase, Taylor Cahill, Gavin Teasdale, Tanner Cahill, and Aidan Nichols, and his stable only grows stronger every day. It feels like it’s only a matter of time before Indio Dojo sends a fighter to the big show.
If you’re looking to start your MMA journey or if you just want to tune up your skills, Villefort’s school is a great option.
How to contact: Facebook | Instagram | email@example.com | 412-706-1404
Ever heard of Renzo Gracie?
Yeah, thought so.
Stout PGH is Pittsburgh’s own Renzo Gracie affiliate, and as you’d expect, they offer nothing short of world-class instruction and training from each of their three locations (the Strip, Monroeville, Zelienople).
Whether you’re working under black belt Mike Wilkins, Will Morrill, Warren Stout, or any of Stout’s other gurus, you can rest easy knowing you’re getting some of the best work in the city when you hit the mats at Stout.
Making Stout even more appealing, they frequently hold seminars from some of the best combat sports athletes on the planet. That’s a valuable resource and opportunity for anyone looking to get into the game locally.
How to contact: Facebook | Instagram | Contact Form | 412-888-9797
PTT – Personal Training Tactics
I’ll be honest: I hadn’t heard of Don Kaecher’s Personal Training Tactics before Brawl in the Burgh 9, where two of his fighters –– Shane Nuttall and Cliff Richards –– competed inside the 247 FC cage.
When both Nuttall and Richards won in emphatic fashion, PTT instantly became a gym I’d never overlook again.
Located between Brentwood and Carrick at 2554 Brownsville Road, there’s no doubt Kaecher and company are doing something right inside those walls. They might not have the reputation and the long list of alumni just yet, but there’s no doubt the quality coming out of that gym is ultra-high and only on the rise.
Kaecher’s worked with fighters such as Cherico, Khama Worthy, Dempsey, Cameron Allgeier, Tijuan McCray, Dave Gabig, John Lepovich, Chris Deep, and Shawn Downs, so if you want quality work, PTT has you covered.
If you’re in the area and looking to get started, you won’t be disappointed with Kaecher’s gym.
How to contact: Facebook | firstname.lastname@example.org | 412-888-9797
Out in the Monaca/Beaver County area, you’ll find Armezzani Jiu-Jitsu, led by owner and head instructor Louis Armezzani.
Besides boasting a wicked kitchen game (no, seriously, you should see his pastrami and/or homemade sausage sometime), Armezzani is one of the area’s premier instructors –– and for good reason.
Armezzani fighters such as PJ Mastrangelo and Boyde (who began his fighting career with Lou) made awesome impressions inside the 247 Fighting Championships cage, proving that Lou and his crew have what it takes to prepare athletes for the highest levels of competition.
Always professional and welcoming, you’ll find yourself right at home inside Armezzani Jiu-Jitsu if you’re just looking to get started in 2022.
How to contact: Facebook | Instagram | email@example.com | 412-742-9368