- MMA coach John Kavanagh has moved his Straight Blast Gym into a new building, and Business Insider paid him — and the new space — a visit.
- John Kavanagh told Business Insider the new Dublin property, together with the mats and equipment, set him back €500,000 ($550,000).
- His athletes like Conor McGregor, Artem Lobov, and James Gallagher will all benefit from the 16,000 sq. ft. space, full-sized MMA Octagon, and boxing ring.
- There's even a communal sauna that can fit up to 40 people.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
One of the world's most famous fight clubs, the new and improved Straight Blast Gym, was unveiled in Dublin on Sunday.
The Straight Blast Gym, owned by MMA coach John Kavanagh, is famed for being the home of the former two-weight UFC champion Conor McGregor, the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship brawler Artem Lobov, and the 22-year-old Bellator MMA featherweight James Gallager, there are also 500 members who use the gym to hone their own fight skills and achieve their personal fitness goals.
Business Insider visited the gym on Tuesday to check out the space, which includes a large open area to practise jiu jitsu, a full-sized Octagon to spar MMA, a boxing ring, as well as bags and a weights area.
After a gruelling session, gym members and athletes can unwind and relax in a communal sauna that can apparently fit up to 40 people.
Kavanagh told Business Insider the 16,000 sq. ft. space, which has been nicknamed "The Monster" by McGregor, cost €500,000 ($550,000).
Here's what it looks like inside.
Welcome to Ireland's Straight Blast Gym, one of the most famous fight clubs on the planet.
The gym is home to five athletes in the UFC, 25 in Bellator MMA, and 500 general members — 200 of whom are under 18.
SBG members can learn Brazilian jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, and judo. There are also strength and conditioning and personal fitness classes.
The gym was founded by MMA coach John Kavanagh in 2001, the first person in Ireland to be awarded a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu.
Kavanagh has been lauded as one of the top mixed martial arts coaches in the world, and is known for his work developing the talents of the former two-weight UFC champion Conor McGregor, the highly-rated Bellator MMA featherweight James Gallagher, and the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship brawler Artem Lobov.
The Straight Blast Gym is located in Inchicore, a suburb 5 kilometers west of Dublin's city center.
Though many professional athletes train there, it is open to anybody who wants to learn mixed martial arts or simply get fit.
The first thing you see when you walk through the double doors is an homage to the successes of the athletes who call Straight Blast Gym their home.
One photo frame immortalizes one of Kavanagh's most iconic nights as a coach.
At the O2 in Dublin (now called the 3Arena) in 2014, Kavanagh looked after four athletes at a UFC Fight Night event. While McGregor beat Diego Brandao in the very first round, Kavanagh oversaw four victories (all stoppages), with three of his athletes receiving win bonuses.
The plaque here says: "Straight Blast Gym is the first and only European team ever to achieve this."
There is also a tribute to McGregor, which reads: "SBG Ireland HQ is home to the world's first UFC champ champ."
You have to leave your shoes at reception, but once you're inside, it's clear Kavanagh got a lot of space for his money.
With 16,000 sq. ft., there are plenty of dedicated areas to train, including a large space for jiu jitsu and ground work, above, which is next to a full-size MMA Octagon. "An MMA gym is pretty simple," Kavanagh told Business Insider. "You need large, open spaces that you can put down mats."
Mats, he said, are usually the biggest investment.
There is a dedicated weights area, but Kavanagh told us: "I'm not a [European gym chain] David Lloyd … I don't need 50 treadmills, that's not what it's about."
He said the only thing his fight club needs is open space and to be warm, clean, and dry.
Kavanagh added it was the opposite to his first gym, nicknamed "The Shed," which was "cold, wet, and stinking."
This is Kavanagh's full-sized MMA Octagon.
It's here where he will oversee sparring involving the top names at his gym like McGregor, Gallagher, and Lobov.
The graphic behind the Octagon shows a crowd, which is there to better simulate what a fight night experience would be like. You can also see lockers to the right side of the Octagon, the SBG logo on the mat, as well as Monster Energy branding.
There is a lot of Monster at SBG, but tea and coffee are also on offer.
The gym officially opened on Sunday, September 22.
When Business Insider visited on Tuesday, Kavanagh told us the place still looked like a building site only four weeks ago.
"We put the hard months in, threw a lot of money at it, and we were looking at it, thinking, 'It's not even close yet,'" he said. "I might have been a bit naive going from 8,000 sq. ft. to 16,000 sq. ft. We doubled in size but doubled the problems. But we kept at it, and here we are now."
Kavanagh's official partners at SBG include Monster Energy, Everlast, and Lockhart and Leith Nutrition Services.
Opposite the Octagon and behind some SBG balloons still standing from the gym's launch, there is also a logo for McGregor Fast, the fighter's extreme performance training plan online.
McGregor has been in the new, improved SBG multiple times already.
Kavanagh tweeted a photo of a recent occasion alongside the caption "Legends."
McGregor was in the foreground of the shot in the SBG Octagon, with historic heavyweight boxers like Rocky Marciano and Sonny Liston in the artwork behind the balcony above him.
There is a full-sized boxing ring upstairs.
Behind it lies a photo of Muhammad Ali knocking down Sonny Liston in the first minute of the first round of their heavyweight championship rematch in 1965.
Kavanagh hopes to change the image of mixed martial arts in Ireland.
He told Business Insider if and when there are criticisms of MMA from Irish politicians, he asks if they have ever been in a fight gym, and that anybody in the political arena has an open invitation at SBG.
"If I see anything negative online I usually contact that politician directly and say, 'Look, your impression may be from seeing glimpses on YouTube but have you ever visited a gym?' Invariably the answer is no. So I say, 'Come down.' Any politician who has done that, and it's only been a handful, they've all been pleasantly surprised," he said.
"People have the impression it's just a bunch of nutcases wanting to kill each other, but it's just ordinary people," Kavanagh said.
"Not everybody wants to play team sports, not everybody wants to kick a ball. But some people like punching, kicking, and grappling. I did. And so do a lot of other people. There's ordinary mums, dads, kids, and people just wanting to be part of a community, get healthy, and be fit, strong, and all those good things."
One of the areas Kavanagh seemed most satisfied with was the changing rooms.
"If you had visited me in my last gym, or any of my last eight gyms, I would be slow to show you the changing rooms. They were always a source of embarrassment. The main training areas were fine and that is what's important but I wanted the bathrooms in my final gym to be a bit special."
Kavanagh teamed up with a firm that renovate five-star hotels to build them.
"I got really lucky with that connection," he said. You can see the men's changing room and showers above.
There is also a communal sauna which can fit up to 40 people, according to Kavanagh.
"There's a lot of strong evidence to suggest it will help recovery and there's actually evidence it's a testosterone booster, a human growth booster … a lot of good stuff. I like to jump in before training, it limbers me up. And there's team-building going on," he said. "At the end of a session we'll go in and yap away. It's a nice bonus."
At the end of a mixed martial arts class and a session in the sauna, gym members and athletes alike can then do some shopping — inside a cage, of course — where they can buy SBG-branded shirts, and a jiu jitsu uniform called a gi.
There is also an SBG-branded Street Fighter 2 video arcade.
John Kavanagh has already produced one world renowned UFC champion, and there could be another elite fighter ready to burst out of the Straight Blast Gym as 22-year-old Bellator MMA fighter James Gallagher looks like a brilliant prospect.
The way Kavanagh runs things, there will likely be even more to come.