It has gone through ownership changes, different names. It’s even moved locations.
But inside one of the newest Valley hotbeds for mixed martial art fighters in north Scottsdale are a couple of coaches and a nucleus of fighters who have no quit.
Welcome to Fight Ready MMA & Fitness Gym, open to the public and home for UFC fighters Frankie Saenz, Henry Cejudo, Roman Salazar and Patrick Williams, with the occasional drop-in appearances by John Moraga, George Roop and Anthony Birchak.
“The other day, we had seven UFC fighters inside the gym,” said former Arizona State wrestling coach Thom Ortiz, one of the coaches, who runs World Fighting Federation with fights that pack Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino.
Former NFL offensive lineman Scott Peters, along with David Zowine, bought Lions Den in south Scottsdale and moved it north last year. Zowine is now the sole owner.
“I think having everybody on the same page having the same goals is the key,” Zowine said. “We’ve got quality fighters, quality trainers, and everybody is focused on the same goal.”
Saenz and Cejudo are two of the top attractions.
Cejudo won an Olympic gold medal in wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Games and won his UFC debut in the Valley in December in the bantamweight division.
Saenz, 34, ranked 13th in bantamweight, has been with Fight Ready since it was Lions Den more than five years ago.
“We didn’t really have a team when I first started out,” Saenz said. “Now it’s a pretty strong foundation.”
The key has been the relationship between Ortiz and head coach Roland Silaraup. In 2009, after Ortiz left ASU, he was led to Silaraup, and they talked about training fighters in Scottsdale. Silaraup said he was making a personal move to the Valley.
The combo clicked. Ortiz had the extensive wrestling background, with a passion for boxing growing up. Silaraup had more than 25 years of mixed-martial arts experience. Soon they were able to develop a strong nucleus of fighters, eventually adding Cejudo to the team.
Ortiz would have his fighters appear at his WFF shows. Things quickly evolved.
“I just want to give them everything I’ve learned,” said Silaraup, who is from Latvia. “I want to pass down my knowledge. I love the sport. Most of the fighters are really nice guys. They try to be the best fighters in the world. I try to give them everything I have.”
Saenz said a big drawing card is Silaraup’s coaching techniques.
Williams, a former ASU wrestler who is 7-4 and fights at 135 pounds, left Florida to train at Fight Ready.
“One thing that Roland offers is a special recipe, I believe, for wrestlers,” Williams said. “He brings everything back to your benefits. Whether it’s kicking or striking, it revolves around that close combat.”
Coach and fighter Benny Madrid, one of the original fighters from Lions Den, said it’s the people that makes the gym.
“We had good teams then,” he said. “We just brought it over here.”
Scottsdale’s Fight Ready gym:
(Photo: Michael Schennum/azcentral sports)