Cork’s MMA Clinic becomes Trials MMA’s first affiliate gym

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The continuing success of their fighters in amateur competition throughout the country, particularly in the Munster area, meant Cork’s MMA Clinic was lauded as one of Ireland’s finest gyms, but when owner Stewart Dollery departed to pursue other professional avenues, those who took the reins brought the camp in a brand new direction.

A long-time coach and fighter at the Clinic, Sean Tobin was one of those who succeeded Dollery, along with the father/son duo of Ciaran O’Brien and Ciaran O’Brien jnr. They quickly decided to re-brand the gym by aligning themselves with the Trails MMA gym in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is owned and operated by MMA stalwarts Ryan Schultz and Ed Herman.

Now in a new 4000 square foot facility in Cork city centre and officially under the Trials banner since May, the gym is the first of what is expected to an extensive group of affiliate programmes around the globe.

Having trained with Trials MMA in the summer of 2013, predominantly under Ryan Schultz, Sean Tobin had continued to stay in close touch with him. Then, after he and the O’Briens assumed control of the gym in January, he floated the idea to Schultz about the possibility of a merger, to which the American was immediately amenable. Tobin says the transition has been a seamless one.

“I was over in America before and I trained with Trials and we had a great connection there. We basically decided to start up a new thing, and thought the timing was right to affiliate with Trials. Talking to the guy (Schultz) for five minutes, you can see his passion and love for the sport. He was one of the main reasons that I was so interested in getting involved with those guys.

“The only real change is the name. We’ve got the same exact coaches and fight team there. It’s still mainly down to what we’re doing. I trained a lot under Ryan, and he’s probably the best coach I’ve ever trained with, so I use a lot of his techniques. The two Ciarans are still teaching their way, but now it’s also about using Ryan and Ed’s experience.”

The collective experience of Schultz and Herman is a considerable one, with the pair acquiring extensive CVs throughout their fighting careers. The former, aside from being a successful amateur wrestler, is the former International Fight League lightweight champion, and came up under the venerated Matt Linland at Team Quest. While the latter still competes in the UFC’s middleweight division, was a runner up on the Ultimate Fighter Series and is a former pupil of Randy Couture.

The Irish MMA scene is not unchartered territory for Schultz, having travelled to Cork to give seminars in 2013, during which time Tobin took him to some amateur events and, to his pleasant surprise, he was notably impressed. At that stage Schultz had expressed an interest in some kind of merger, but it seemed an unlikely prospect, then the stars aligned.

“He was here last year just coaching for a couple of weeks, and he loved it. I brought him to a Battlezone show and Clan Warriors show, and they are both amateur, and he was blown away by the talent here. He thought we’d be a lot further behind in Ireland. He was really keen to get involved in the Irish scene, because he saw it was ready to blow up.

“Myself and Ryan talked about it, and it was on my mind when I came back, but with Stewart still running the gym, I didn’t think it was possible. When Stewart told us he wanted to do his own thing, that’s when I thought it was possible. I contacted Ryan, when we had taken over, and asked about working through us in Ireland, and he was ready to go.”

One of the first agreements struck under the new alliance was a regular exchange of fighters and coaches between the camps, so as to ensure the knowledge base is continually expanding. And, with many of the Tobin’s crop of amateurs (including himself) set to go professional before the end of the year, the timing couldn’t be better.

“A lot of our senior amateur guys are looking to go pro by the start of next year. Darren O’Gorman, a Battlezone champion, will be fighting professionally for the first time on November 1st, in a big show down here in Cork. Ciaran Daily, who is just back from training with Trials in America, should be turning pro soon too.

“There’s a lot of potential and talent down here. We obviously had a really good amateur team, but with this affiliation we’re going to catch up and have some top professionals. There’s a couple of really good gyms down here in Cork, and it’s only a matter of time before guys like start Ciaran O’Brien getting to the UFC.

“Ryan, as the head coach there, he’s going to be coming over as often as he can, and they’re going to be sending over fighters, and we’ll be going back and forth; basically sister gyms. The lads (Schultz and Herman) are going to be over here at the end of the month and we’ll be able to go over more details in person.”

Being a city so synonymous with sport, it is only logical MMA would thrive in Cork, and Tobin says numbers in his classes continue to swell; he even had the Munster rugby team in for some training.  Watch this space, ladies and gentlemen.

Ryan Schultz and Ed Herman will be giving a complete seminar at Trials MMA on Wednesday, October 1, before the gym’s official unveiling four days later, on Sunday 5th. They are located at 2 Gold Crop House, Centre Park Road, Cork.

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