The sign above the entrance of the new gym on Astor Street in Lynn that notes that some of the finest mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters on the North Shore train there.
Since opening Team Pradal Serey Gym four months ago, co-owners and Lynn residents Saroeum Phoung and Luis Torres have attracted a large contingent of up and coming mixed martial arts fighters of all ages. One competitor, 19-year-old Ricardo Georges, will make his professional debut in a Sept. 16 show at the Wonderland Entertainment Complex in Revere and he could be the sport’s next national superstar.
Justin Lewis, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Marshall Middle School, is a part of a new generation of mixed martial arts students that includes many youths in Lynn’s large Cambodian community.
Phoung, 39, came from his birthplace of Cambodia to the United States in 1984. He and Torres are kru (teachers) at the school. Phoung is a fourth-generation teacher of pradal serey, an unarmed Cambodian martial art.
Phoung is also a trainer of six MMA fighters who will be fighting in the show in Revere.
“Ricardo is the No.-1 ranked fighter in New England and he will be making his pro debut and fighting in the main event,” said Phoung. “He is the reigning AFO (American Fighting Organization) and Cage Titan champion in the 170-pound division.”
Phoung said use of his new gym has been growing steadily.
“I think our gym is a lot different than other gyms because a lot of training is focused on family values and team values and we know our students very well,” said Phoung. “It’s almost like a family center and we’re using martial arts as a way to do it. The principal and philosophy here is about building a family and a community and helping each other do the right thing.”
Torres, a professional MMA fighter, will be competing in the Revere show. He is proud of the new gym.
“We’re growing faster than ever,” said Torres, 34, who is of Honduran Puerto Rican heritage. “We started with 12 members and now we have 45 members. We have a very good kids program. I love working with Saroeum. He’s a great partner.”
MMA fighting is becoming increasingly popular in the United States and will soon be getting regular exposure on Fox Television, who just signed a deal that will pay the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) organization $100 million a year for seven years.