FORMER UFC star, George Sotiropoulos gave Strike Martial Arts Academy his seal of approval following his recent week-long visit to the Bay Road club.
And when it comes to mixed martial arts, that’s a ringing endorsement from the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist who claimed the Derry facility was as good as some of the premier MMA gyms in the world!
Indeed, legendary grappler, Sotiropoulos rated Strike as highly as UFC Hall of Fame fighter, Randy Couture’s Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas and Eddie Bravo’s famed 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu in the Legends MMA gym in Los Angeles where he’s trained in the past.
Ex UFC lightweight contender, Sotiropolous imparted his expertise to Strike owner and coach, Daniel ‘Pinta’ Quigley and his students last week when he landed in Derry.
So impressed with the standard of training and the facilities on offer, the Australian MMA star decided to spend the entire week of his Derry holiday on the mats at both Strike and Torres BJJ upstairs.
Partnered with ‘Pinta’, he felt the full force of the four times professional world champions’ kicks and punches while he unveiled a few priceless grappling secrets of his own.
And ‘Pinta’ insists it was an invaluable experience for all involved.
“It has been a great week,” smiled ‘Pinta’. “He’s been following my kickboxing career and I’ve always been a fan of his. He always said that when he finally visits Derry he would come and visit the gym.
“He just planned to come for the one day but said he’s been so impressed that he started training here with us.
“He’s trained in a lot of gyms across the world,” added ‘Pinta’. “He’s trained in Randy Couture’s gym, Eddie Bravo’s gym who are famous guys in the sport and he said we are on a par with those gyms which is a great compliment coming from someone like George.
“So he’s been training away and I’ve been showing him a few things about ‘stand-up’ and he’s been teaching us some great moves in return. For myself and for the whole gym it’s been a great experience.”
Strike is still in its infancy but it’s really beginning to flourish and attracting huge names like George ‘Sots’ and Tyrone Spong who visited the club earlier this year, has obviously provided that extra injection of interest.
Strike was established just 16 months ago and ‘Pinta’ is delighted with its continued growth.
“It’s great for the club because we’re trying to establish our name in the sport,” he explained. “Our fighters are doing that for us too.
He’s trained in Randy Couture’s gym and Eddie Bravo’s gym, both are famous guys in the sport and he said we are on a par with those gyms which is a great compliment coming from someone like George.Daniel ‘Pinta’ Quigley
“We have Eamon Deane who is going to Germany next month to fight for a world title which is also putting our name on the map. About six months ago we had Tyrone Spong at the club who is probably the biggest K1 fighter in the world and now we have George here doing a seminar which is unreal. It proves that we’re going in the right direction.
“There are lots of role models here and we try and base Strike around respect, respecting each other - it’s not just about fighting. Martial arts is a lot more than that.
“George lives very cleanly, he looks after his diet and lives for what he does and for him to be here passing on his knowledge, it’s been a great experience and I’m so thankful for it.”
What did he gain from his sparring sessions with the Australian fighter?
“George has really strong kicks and it was one of those instances where you’re thinking, ‘if he kicks me hard, I’m going to kick him harder,” he laughed.
“He’s talking about opening his own gym in America and he said he’s going to come back and visit. So I think we’ve made a long term friend in George.”
In regards to his own future in the sport, ‘Pinta’ revealed he is finally ready to step back into the ring again after a prolonged absence.
“I’ve still go the hunger to fight. I wanted to get Strike established and that takes a lot of dedication.
When I was fighting I was always dedicated whenever I was training so I had to channel that energy into Strike.
“We’re here 16 months now and I think it’s time I got back into the ring. I’ve been talking to George about different obstacles that stand in your way and he’s met those same problems and told me how he overcame them so it’s been good to be able to express that to George and he gave me the answers I needed to hear.
“So hopefully this year I should be back in the ring.”
Pinta added that the doors at Strike are open for everyone with beginners classes on both Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7.30 p.m.
“Come down have a look around, have a free training session and see how you get on and we’ll take it from there.”