New martial arts facility popular fitness alternative

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson


Chris Ortiz acknowledged that the training at Independent MMA & Fitness is among the most intense of his lifetime.

"They kill me everyday," said Ortiz. "You go through the wringer when they train you."

The 36-year-old joined the McDonough mixed martial arts (MMA) and fitness facility about two months ago. "Anybody that comes in, they usually end up throwing up," said Ortiz, who admitted that he last fell ill following a 60-minute run in endurance training about a week ago.

Ortiz is one of about 110 members currently working out and training at the facility. It is one of a relative few in the region, according to Chris Ruiz, co-owner of Independent MMA and Fitness.

The 10,000-square-foot facility is located at 235 McDonough Parkway in McDonough.

Ruiz, 29, opened the combination training and fitness facility four months ago with business partner and co-owner, Khun Joe Merit, 46.

"We love the town and wanted to provide an instructional fitness and marital arts school, with a strong philosophy and structure," said Ruiz.

Ruiz and Merit, both of Stockbridge, each have business backgrounds and experience in MMA.

Ruiz said he has worked with medical facilities and in property management. He said Merit, who also works in property management, holds a business degree. They have a combined 40 years experience in MMA, ranging from boxing to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Merit, he said, has a professional MMA record of 27-10-0, and he (Ruiz) has a record of 6-1-0.

The goal in providing MMA training is to help students gain self-confidence, respect, discipline and a healthy life style, said Ruiz, noting that 35 percent of the membership at Independent MMA & Fitness trains with professional aspirations. s

Chris Ortiz is an amateur bantamweight competitor in MMA. However, he said, he trains like a professional, hoping for a shot at becoming a successful professional MMA fighter. "I love the sport," he said.

The fighter said he trains between four and six hours daily, during the week. He takes in about three hours in the morning with strength and conditioning training, and lessons on technique in various martial arts disciplines.

At night, he said, he returns for more strength and conditioning training and sparring.

"The training is so intense," Ortiz said. "It just keeps me at another level of training. It keeps me in shape, and I like the competition."

Ortiz has competed in MMA bouts across the Southeast for the past two years. He said he holds an amateur record of 17-5-0, and a 3-3-0 record in U.S. Boxing Commission-sanctioned matches.

"It's working out great," he added. "The ultimate goal is to get black belts, teaching and training."

Independent MMA & Fitness is part dojo, part training center, and part fitness club. Its members have access to weight-training and cardio equipment, according to Ruiz. They also are able to learn self-defense through MMA training.

Ruiz said students at Independent MMA & Fitness learn the combative arts in an entirely freestyle training environment, which includes cardio kickboxing, boxing, Muay Thai, Judo, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as other disciplines.

"Independent MMA & Fitness is dedicated to transforming the lives of its students by empowering them with the tools to succeed, regardless of gender, age or athletic ability," explained Ruiz. He noted that the facility has garnered a diverse following of members, who range in age, from 5 to 60.

"It has a family atmosphere," added Dawn Krieger, general manager of Independent MMA & Fitness. "I've had people come in and say, 'Wow, I feel like I belong here.'"

Ruiz continued, reciting from the facility's mission statement: "The values of positive attitude, discipline, and respect gained from the training help students become well-rounded, responsible and successful individuals."

To learn more, call Independent MMA & Fitness, at (678) 999-2629.