A little more than 10 years ago, Roli Delgado and Matt Hamilton set their sights on bringing high-level MMA training to their hometown, Little Rock, Ark. A decade later, the former UFC fighter’s vision — Little Rock’s Westside MMA — is stronger than ever.
Arkansas’ largest martial arts academy, Westside MMA fighters have competed in the UFC, The Ultimate Fighter, and Bellator MMA. The academy has also produced world-champion Brazilian jiu-jitsu students.
It’s hard to say how many MMA gyms are open for 10 years. But the reason why Westside MMA has thrived in a tumultuous market, Delgado insists, is pretty simple. “Unfortunately, a lot of people get involved in martial arts because they view it as the easiest way to make money or they really enjoy teaching and having people look up to them, but that’s not the same thing as loving MMA, as loving striking, as loving jiu-jitsu,” Delgado says, “and wanting to share that love and passion with others.”
“Our success really revolves around our passion for everything we have to offer our students. That’s the one thing you can’t fake consistently. Thankfully, we’re really passionate about what we teach, which was the motivation in the first place.” Adds co-founder Matt Hamilton, “What has made the academy successful is a coaching staff driven by love for what they do and decades of trial-and-error experience that the clients at Westside benefit from.”
What does the next 10 years look like for Westside MMA?
Hopefully, Delgado says, a lot like the past decade.
“Ideally, we’re going to continue to develop the courses we offer and fill our schedule with more opportunities to train people,” Delgado says, smiling. “The plan is to continue to develop our coaching staff, and everything will develop from there.
“I can’t wait to see what the next decade looks like.”