A Smithtown mixed martial arts gym and fitness center is getting a fresh start for 2014 under new name and new ownership.
Strike First Fitness and MMA has taken over 906 W. Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown, the former home of Pride Fitness and MMA as of Jan. 1, 2014. While the gym's mats may look familiar to customers, the New Year offers the promise of a fresh start.
Smithtown resident Neil Doyle, initially an investor and supporter of Pride Fitness, has taken over Strike First. Doyle, a brown belt in Israeli self-defense art of Krav Maga under the Krav Maga Federation, brings years of experience to the studio.
"I've always like the martial arts, way before MMA was even thought of," he said.
Doyle said he started training in karate when he was 8 years old, and started wrestling in high school when he wanted a sport with more contact. He has since trained in Tae Kwon Do, competitive kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian jui-jitsu and Krav Maga since 1999.
However, it was when the Ultimate Fighting Championship rose in popularity that it caught his attention.
"Ever since I first saw the UFC, I fell in love with what they are doing," Doyle said.
In 2006, Doyle opened his first MMA retail store First Gear based in Deer Park. He sold equipment and supplies for MMA fighters, but said the store was ahead of its time.
"Long Island was really not ready for the MMA yet, it was not legalized here," Doyle said. "The store did okay, but it was more people interested in watching martial arts than training in MMA."
He sold the store off in 2010, and Doyle said he focused his time on converting the barn out behind his former Amityville home into a training center where he taught 8-10 fighters a mixed martial arts style pulled from his years of experience.
After an initial investment in Pride Fitness didn't work out as expect, according to Doyle, he decided to take over the studio to bring fitness and MMA training to his hometown community.
"There was gap I was seeing in gyms where either it was a corporate branding, big and people got lost, or small MMA schools that were sweatboxes or disgusting," Doyle said. "What if we have a place where you walk in and everyone knows your name?'
He's striving to bring that community feel to Strike First in Smithtown. The gym and fitness center offers cardio kickboxing and personal training for those looking to get in shape to a competitive MMA team.
Doyle said in efforts of creating a community Strike First also offers a "Little Striker's Kids Class" aimed at children age 5 and up to teach a combination of Muay Thai, Brazilian jui-jitsu, wrestling and Krav Maga on a belt-based system.
For a full schedule of classes offered at Strike First in Smithtown, visit their
website here or their
Facebook page for more information.