Penn students formed a mixed martial arts club to teach fighting techniques and create community



The Penn MMA Club meets on Mondays and Saturdays at the David Pottruck Health & Fitness Center.

Photo credit: Hannah Shumsky

A new mixed martial arts club on campus offers Penn students the opportunity to learn fighting techniques and compete.

Penn MMA, founded in the fall 2023 semester by college senior Maximilian Chan, trains and practices mixed martial arts – a full-contact combat sport incorporating techniques from various martial arts from around the world. Several Penn MMA members are preparing for an April 12 competition in Morgantown, West Virginia, hosted by the intercollegiate mixed martial arts organization NUCA.

Penn MMA classes are taught by more experienced members with experience in various martial arts. The club also conducts more casual exercises and joint sessions with other martial arts groups on campus, such as Taekwondo, Boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu clubs.

“The great thing about MMA at Penn is that you learn something new in every session. Because the students are the trainers. So everyone brings their own background,” said first-year engineering major Sydney Diaz.

Chan estimates that most club members are newbies and only about a quarter of members have extensive experience before joining.

“We know how scary [mixed martial arts] is, and we try to be as beginner-friendly as possible,” said freshman Julian Velazquez. “When we hold certain drills, we specifically target beginners so they can learn to defend themselves, fight and ultimately prepare for competition if they want to.”

Unlike the scoring systems in some other combat sports competitions, in MMA opponents aim to incapacitate each other in three-minute, three-round bouts, either by being knocked out, forced to submit, or by the referee imposing a technical knockout Consider. The risk of injuries such as concussions or bloody eyes can make the competitions more intense than sparring and smoking exercises, which are exhibition bouts.

Despite the competitive nature of the sport, Chan said members often have different reasons for learning MMA.

“[Competing’s] just for some people,” Chan said. “For most community members – about 95% – you train just because you want to get better. You want to get some exercise. You want to meet some new people, some great people, or you want to learn how to fight. … No one is going to end up being an MMA fighter when we graduate.”

Several Penn MMA members said they appreciated the club's focus on community building.

“I feel like the friendships I have within MMA are different than the friendships I have outside of it,” Chan said. “During austerity battles, both of you often end up in heated arguments. After that you like them. “You’re a pretty cool guy.” “Yeah, you’re pretty good.” And you get really close.”

To this end, the club hosts a variety of events, including tournament watching parties and, most recently, Easter weekend retreats.

“We walked to a ski resort, hung out at the top of the mountain and had a campfire – just generally strengthened team bond and became very close,” Velazquez said. “I think it was a really good path [for] the people from the team and the members of the club get to know each other [and] Get to know each other on a more personal level.”

Penn MMA will be eligible for Student Activities Council funding next academic year, and the club hopes to hire professional coaches.

“In addition to our own training, we also had to help train others. “Bringing coaches in … would definitely help ease the burden on some,” Velazquez said. “Knowing how to play the sport and knowing how to train the sport are two different things.”

Diaz said Penn MMA will likely continue as new people come in and become regular members.

“They come in with no experience and then, bam, you see them at the club every day,” Diaz said. “We just had a senior in her second semester and she went every day. With that spirit, I think this club could last as long as we want because it is a great community.”