Brazilian UFC twins Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (left) and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at the official opening of the Team Nogueira Dubai franchise in Al Quoz. Image Credit: Sahara Communications

Dubai: Stars of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Antonio Rodrigo and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira launched a mixed martial arts (MMA) and fitness academy in Dubai on Sunday.

Part of a global franchise expansion that will see 12 gyms blossom into 51 facilities worldwide by May 2014, the 37-year-old Brazilian twins hope to spread a concept of family wellness first established by their mother.

Former interim UFC heavyweight champion and current world No 8 heavyweight, Rodrigo said: “My mother had a gym so we grew up in the sport from the age of four. Back then if you wanted to do judo or karate, you would have to go to separate clubs, you never had one place for the whole family. My mother recognised this and put all mixed martial arts in her gym and that’s what we want to do here.

“The other day we had a guy learning jiu-jitsu, his wife doing a boot camp and their two daughters doing capoeira inside the octagon. If his daughters want to be fighters we can develop them, but we want to bring everyone into the gym, it’s not all about fighting.”

There is currently only one fighter of Arab descent on the UFC roster and that is American-Palestinian lightweight Ramsey Nijem, 25, fighting out of Utah. But it’s hoped the Team Nogueira Dubai facility, which is located west of Oasis Centre along Fourth Street in Al Quoz 3, can help develop more elite fighters from the region.

Rogerio, the current world No 10 light heavyweight, said: “For sure we are going to make a lot of MMA fighters here. But our proposal is not only to produce champions but work with wellness and try to make people change their lifestyle.”

For those put off by intimidating aspects of combat sports, Rodrigo offered some reassurance. “Normal people would never get hurt,” he said. “It depends on the intensity. If you want to compete, of course, it’s a very extreme sport. If you want to surf the big wave, you’ve got to take a risk. The guy who drives an F1 car knows it’s dangerous, as does the American footballer. But MMA training is not dangerous if you can manage the intensity.”

Of the societal values the sport promotes, Rodrigo added: “The first time a kid goes to the mat he won’t have a belt. His father will be the one to put the belt on his son, when he earns it.

“This will help him associate his father as his leader. We lose in that area sometimes, you know what I mean? My father was tough with me but I’m not that tough with my daughter.

“They will also only graduate after four or six months if they are doing well in school. We want to give their father the power to decide.”