A place where MMA meets pole dancing


I kid you not when I say there’s a world-class gym at the Metrowalk Complex in Pasig City. I know it’s not really the place one goes to for a healthy lifestyle; amidst the merrymaking establishments and the most renowned poker room in the country, but believe it or not, in this oasis of “gimiks” has sprouted a new facility for those who want to get in shape and also do some serious training. Probably the reason you haven’t heard of it yet is because it hasn’t opened—at least not officially.

Many who follow the local Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) scene are quite familiar with flyweight Erwin Tagle, one of the meanest in his division. Being one of the visionaries of the sport, Erwin has been a constant fixture in the MMA panorama of the archipelago as a fighter, trainer and recently as a broadcaster. Now he’s a co-entrepreneur.

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I first met this pintsized phenom in 2012 during one of my broadcasting workshops where his network AKTV sent him to attend as a student. He was in a star-studded group of participants which included Michelle Datuin (the former star player of De La Salle University’s women’s volleyball team) and Kirk Long (the former captain of the champion Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles basketball squad). Erwin struck me as a confident and eloquent young man who really was very passionate about his craft. Despite his diminutive stature, he was an instant standout in my class and after he had completed the course, I assured the people at AKTV that he was ready to go on board as a fight analyst, which he did for AKTV’s coverages of the PXC and Fightsportson AKTV.

Late last year, I learned that Erwin was involved in a gym that was being built in the Metrowalk Complex (my turf due to my association with the Metro Card Club) and was curious about the place when I witnessed construction in full swing. The other day, I finally hooked up with my former broadcasting ward and learned that the gym—Ultimate Fitness Manila—was the brainchild and collaboration of a combination of people one would not instantly associate each other with.

Ultimate Fitness Manila is co-owned by Erwin, film and television actor Richard Gutierrez and former Ilocos Sur congressman Ronald Singson; quite a strange mix of characters, yet they have one thing in common: to lead a lifestyle of ultimate fitness and to propagate this health awareness to everyone. Putting up a fitness facility in the entertainment hub of the metropolis is one the best ways to begin spreading the vibe. Gamblish, but brilliant.

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Now many will wonder how Ronald is related to fitness as it is universally known that he was incarcerated in Hong Kong a few years back due to his alleged association with illegal substances. His doing time actually led him to a newfound passion for a healthy lifestyle.

“When I was in Hong Kong, I stopped smoking and began working out a lot,” Ronald recounts. “When I came back here I made a decision to make the permanent switch to better myself health-wise. I’ve been clean ever since and Ultimate Fitness Manila helps me maintain my health goals.”

Today, Ronald is a certified gym-rat who never misses an opportunity to work out and has turned his life around for the better. But he took it a step higher when he connected with Erwin and Richard and solidified his devotion to fitness by erecting Ultimate Fitness Manila at the Metrowalk Complex. He hopes that people who frequent the bars and shops there can also consider the new health-conscious lifestyle he now embraces fervently.

“If I can change my lifestyle, anyone can,” Ronald explains. “Ultimate Fitness Manila is conveniently located in the center of everything and I’m sure it won’t be long before people come to Metrowalk not only to party, but also to work out and learn about what the benefits of living healthily are all about.”

For Richard, his zeal for fitness started when he was still a nine-year-old karate aspirant in California.

“I’ve been into karate since I was child,” the two-time FAMAS Award nominee and triathlon buff recalls. “I was so into it that when I was 16 I was supposed to represent my state in the national karate championships in Florida after I won three state-titles. I took a vacation in the Philippines and never got to go back as my acting and modelling careers suddenly kicked-off. I’ve always had fitness as a priority in my life and now we have Ultimate Fitness Manila. I can train, workout and stay in shape while helping others achieve in terms of health and fitness as well.”

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“Ultimate Fitness Manila’s vision is to forge the most effective health and fitness training,” Managing Partner Sean Fariñas states. “(This) prepares each athlete or average Joe/Jane for any physical task though MMA training, boxing, Muay Thai, strength and conditioning, yoga, etc.

“It is our mission to provide the most dynamic, effective and efficient (set of) workouts that no other facility can offer, hence the name ‘Ultimate Fitness’.”

“We have almost everything here for anyone of any fitness level,” Erwin explains. “For those who are into martial arts, we have Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu training. Boxing is also something we’re bringing in and we have one of the best boxers in the business helping us out there in Roy Doliguez (a former boxing flyweight contender turned straw weight MMA prospect).

“We have a full set of weights, treadmills and plyometrics equipment. We also have licensed trainers who work with our members from as early as six in the morning to late at night. The people who go here range from those who just want to get a good workout to those who train extensively for their next MMA fight. There are even a few professional basketball players who train here and also we get a few people coming in to get ready for triathlons. Richard is actually a triathlete so he and the others go through a completely different training method to prepare for their races.”

Core training is also offered at Ultimate Fitness Manila and is one of the undertakings that many of its members immerse themselves in. The “Caveman”, “Spartan” and “Fightform” workouts—popular training techniques for MMA fighters—are the trademarks of the Ultimate Fitness Manila program and many athletes from various sports involve themselves in this method to help develop several untapped muscles in their bodies. These High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) methods were traditionally indigenous to MMA practitioners. Now everyone can experience this at Ultimate Fitness Manila.

“Our core workouts are geared towards the MMA fighters training because our goal is to transform our customers to elite shape which will prepare them for the unknown and the unknowable,” Sean declares.

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“We are actually surprised by some of the ladies who come in,” Erwin continues. “We begin offering them our yoga and aerobics programs and also show them our dance studio where our pole dancing activities happen. They usually point to the main gym and say, ‘I wanna do that,’ referring to the exercises that our male clients do.”

Pole Dancing ambassadress Ciaro Sotto will be conducting classes at Ultimate Fitness soon, plus classes in dance and ballet for younger children are also in the works.

“We want people to go to the place on the weekends with their families and have the Ultimate Fitness experience,” Ronald goes on to say. “It’s a great way to have a healthy bonding and as a family they stay fit.”

Initially, the patrons who signed up early thought they were getting an opportunity to workout alongside celebrities who frequent the place. Yes, they do to do that, but eventually become enamoured with the fitness routines that Ultimate Fitness Manila offers.

“We do have a number of personalities who are members already,” Erwin says. “But we give them the same workout everyone else has to go through so it becomes challenging for them and that’s why they become regular patrons.”

The location of the Metrowalk Complex is where the old Payanig Sa Pasig carnival once stood. After Payanig, Metrowalk continued its legacy of being Pasig City’s entertainment hub. Ultimate Fitness Manila hopes to insert health and fitness into the mix. It’s a unique concept whose facility is found in the most unlikely vicinity. But it is surely a breath of fresh air in an otherwise smoke-filled environment—both literally and figuratively. It’s a new revolution in fitness whose timing is so opportune.

Ultimate Fitness Manila has a Facebook page and is also on Twitter.

Ultimate Fitness Manila officially opens its doors on March 1, but yet it already has almost one hundred members. Are you one of them? If not, maybe it’s time to check it out. Ronald Singson said it right: “…If I can change my lifestyle, anyone can.”

Follow Noel Zarate on Twitter: @NoelZarate

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.