Glory Watson (right) takes instruction from Young's MMA owner Chris Young during a July 2018 training session in Bangor. Watson is scheduled to fight Rachael Lippert of Wisconsin in a 125-pound mixed martial arts bout during Friday night's NEF 37 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Credit: Gabor Degre | bdn

Young’s MMA has gained a reputation as one of the top mixed martial arts programs in New England, helping numerous athletes attain regional and national success in the sport.

Fans of the Maine-based New England Fights promotion reinforced their belief in the Bangor-area gym again recently, voting Young’s as the state’s top MMA team in a year-end poll.

One person who disagreed with that assessment — at least for 2019 — is Chris Young, the gym’s founder and chief trainer.

“If I’m being honest there were more deserving teams, a couple of teams that really shined this year that probably should have gotten the nod over us just because this has been a rough year for us,” he said. “It hasn’t been one of our more active years as a team.

“But it’s always good that the fans still have faith in us and believe in the product we put out, so I was pretty happy to hear it, but I was a little surprised.”

Adding to that surprise is the fact that Young’s MMA is without a true home after Young last fall sold his most recent base of operation, Union Street Athletics on Griffin Road in Bangor, to Travis Adams.

Young purchased USA Athletics in mid-2017 but eventually found that the blend of mixed martial arts with a traditional fitness facility was not all he had envisioned.

“When I bought USA I had an idea in my head of what I wanted it to grow into, and it just wasn’t working out that way,” Young said. “I wasn’t happy there. I met a lot of great people, but it was just a different element that wasn’t bringing me the same joy, so I made the decision to sell and move on to something else.”

USA Athletics, now known as All Around Fitness, was the fifth home for Young’s MMA since its inception approximately a decade ago.

The gym originated in the basement of Young’s Brewer home, then as the business began to grow it relocated to Cushman Plaza on outer Hammond Street in Bangor and then to the old Bangor YMCA building, also on Hammond Street.

But the Bangor YMCA facility was condemned in April 2017 by the city of Bangor for a variety of violations and was purchased by Penobscot County the next day.

That temporarily left Young’s MMA without a home, but the business then spent several months at the former Great Skates building on Sylvan Road in Bangor before Young moved into USA Athletics in September 2017.

Since leaving that venue, Young has taken a more low-key approach, with his MMA team currently training at a private location in Bangor.

“I guess you could say things are chaotic, but I’m finding quite a bit of happiness in the chaos, so I can’t complain,” he said. “It’s been a crazy couple of years. Running a business is very time-consuming and quite chaotic. I’m pretty happy with the way things are progressing right now.”

Young is considering building or purchasing a more permanent home for his gym, possibly as soon as this spring.

“I don’t need to have a big, huge facility. I want to keep it humble,” he said. “I just want to be happy to unlock that door every day when I walk into the gym.

“That’s really what I’m looking for, just to be happy, and if the money comes then that’s a great byproduct, but the big thing for me is making sure that every day I’m excited to go to work.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...