The Russian Fitness Group, which manages the World Class and World Class Lite fitness clubs, has entered into an agreement on the development of fitness clubs under the UFC Gym brand in Russia, a representative of the group told Vedomosti.
Russian Fitness Group, according to its representative, plans to open 55 UFC Gym clubs in Russia, own and franchised, over the next 10 years. They will offer a “full range of fitness services,” including coaches and branded group classes; training programs are developed based on the analysis of the sports regime of the leading UFC fighters.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) was actively involved in the deal, a representative of the Russian Fitness Group added. In the fall of 2018, RDIF and its partner, Mubadala from the United Arab Emirates, bought 22.5% of the Russian Fitness Group from VTB Capital. And in the summer of the same year, the Russian-Chinese Investment Fund (created by RDIF and the China Investment Corporation) and Mubadala became partners of the iconic Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The UFC is the main competitor of boxing on Pay TV: the number of orders for paid broadcasts of mixed martial arts exceeds 1 million per year. The first UFC-branded “fight without rules” back in November 1993 was produced by WOW Promotions and Semaphore Entertainment Group.
The UFC, together with RDIF and Mubadala, have already established a company in Russia to conduct fights here and in the CIS countries. RDIF expects “significant synergy” between Russian Fitness Group and UFC Russia, said Kirill Dmitriev, general director of the fund.
Olga Slutsker, the founder and chairman of the board of directors of the Russian Fitness Group, told Vedomosti in December 2018 that she was interested in the format of mixed martial arts studios. Representatives of UFC came to Russia a few years ago, were interested in the development of the UFC Gym network, she reminded: “If our shareholders have such rights [на развитие бренда UFC в России], it is a sin not to explore the possibilities of earning money together on this, doing a useful job. We have both the base and the experience. ” Today the Russian Fitness Group, according to its data, is the largest Russian chain, uniting 45 own and 47 franchised fitness clubs in 34 cities and six countries.
Russian Fitness Group has agreed to cooperate with UFC Gym for 10 years with a possible extension for another 10 years, it will develop the network under this brand exclusively, says Nikolay Pryanishnikov, CEO of the group. During the first year, according to him, the group will decide on the first site, it will be in the UFC Gym Signature format – 1800 sq. Then, smaller clubs will open – UFC Gym Core (up to 1000 sq. m) and UFC Gym Class studios.
UFC Gym, as Pryanishnikov expects, will attract a new audience, in particular young people, while World Class will remain a project for wealthy people and family sports (World Class Lite). The approach to the development of the UFC Gym network will be the same as that of World Class, he notes: independently – in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Sochi, and on a franchise – in the regions where they intend to cooperate with existing and new partners.
Pryanishnikov is not worried that the new chain will become a competitor to World Class: “The penetration of fitness services in Moscow is only 8%, in Russia it is even lower: about 2%. In addition, we intend to develop World Class and UFC Gym projects in different segments. “
Only a few percent of the population use fitness services in Russia, and the market cannot be called saturated, agrees the founder of the GOboxing studio Halima Karimova. In Russia, they love boxing and various martial arts, the consumer perceives them well, says Karimova, but there is still a stereotype that such sports are practiced in some basements with dubious conditions, their audience is only men, and the atmosphere is not always friendly. There are still few formats specializing in martial arts, Stanislav Kudashkin, fitness director of the Ludus Dome martial arts and fitness club, confirms: they are still less in demand than fitness, crossfit and cycling.
When the UFC came to Russia, she, together with the research company Nielsen, studied the market and found that there are about 25 million fans of mixed martial arts in Russia, said Andrei Gromkovsky, vice president of the UFC in Russia. Among them, according to him, about 15 million people are interested not only in watching, but also in doing this sport themselves. Therefore, the launch of clubs is a natural development of the UFC in Russia, Gromkovsky believes, they will become part of the ecosystem for fans: soon the UFC TV channel will be launched in Russia, and goods and games are also sold under this brand.
Clubs and studios of a modern format for white collars and a mass audience began to develop only a few years ago, Karimova adds. So, in addition to the GOboxing studio, BoBo Boxing, Oktyabr, Rocky Road Gym, The Corner Boxing appeared. The arrival of the UFC Gym brand will contribute to the development of modern formats of martial arts clubs and the popularization of such sports, Karimova sums up.
In total, more than 150 clubs around the world operate under the UFC Gym brand, another 500 clubs are preparing to open. UFC Gym is a joint venture between UFC and New Evolution Ventures.