When you think of Homer, many ideas, images and memories could flood the mind. Whether it’s the famous Homer Spit, halibut fishing or Fat Olives restaurant, visiting Homer is a unique and beautiful experience. Yet, what lies beyond the exterior is a small mixed martial arts gym with a vision to change a community. End of the Road MMA wants more than a room to train. It wants the opportunity to affect a community.
This week I got an opportunity to talk with David Teufel, owner of End of the Road MMA. David is, in every aspect, a mixed martial artist, but a little over a year ago he decided to train and educate others on the sport he loves so much.
However, it hasn’t been a cakewalk for Teufel. Starting and maintaining a gym in Homer has both its benefits and challenges. When asked about opening End of the Road MMA, Teufel recalls the difficulty, even with the help he had from Isaac Kolesar, the founder of Redemption gym in Soldotna.
“When I first started End of the Road MMA down in Homer, I talked to a couple of people to rent a space to train,” he said. “When they heard we were training MMA they said, ‘No, we can’t have that here.’
“It’s a tough battle but we were lucky enough to get wrestling mats from Isaac and put those to good use. The point we’re at right now, we are set up in a garage and doing everything out of there. We have three to five students. Homer is a fishing town so it’s hard to keep people around.”
Many small community MMA gym owners, like Teufel, have found that the words “mixed martial arts” come with a lot of baggage. While many have labeled the sport barbaric in nature, Teufel has another opinion.
“General public sees us as heathens a lot of time,” he said. “(MMA) boils down to much more than that. My goal, alongside Isaac, is to just represent the sport in the right manner. I see myself coming up in MMA and it has taught me discipline and respect — all the things kids need to know, especially when they can’t teach all those aspects in school.”
Although difficult at times, Teufel has found that success comes with hard work. He’s made it his mission to change the perception of MMA in Homer and ultimately the Kenai Peninsula. Perhaps a difficult task, Teufel acknowledges it takes one step at a time.
“It’s been incremental,” he said. “I’ve developed my own fan base as a fighter but, within the community, it’s (MMA) still frowned upon. Kids there have these underground fight clubs that draw negative attention to MMA and bring us (End of the Road MMA) down. It’s a misrepresentation.”
Teufel’s motives for change go beyond professional. It’s personal.
“I want to bring a good name to the MMA scene,” he said. “Before I’m a fighter or martial artist, I’m a father to four children. I’m a full-time employee. I have a 2-year-old son that I’ve been adamantly working with on jiu-jitsu and striking at such a young age.
“I feel if there was something like this for more kids, if I could put something together like a kids program. There’s nothing else to do in Homer. Martial arts is what taught me discipline, it taught me respect for my elders, for just people as a whole.”
Passion is one thing, patience is another. Teufel’s passion for MMA is rivaled only by his patience with a community he loves. As a gym, End of the Road MMA would relish the opportunity to positively impact the community, especially the youth. Yet, all they’re asking for is a chance. Teufel can see the positive impact training mixed martial arts has had on his life. Now he wants to give back.
For more information about End of the Road MMA, contact David Teufel at 907-299-4313 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Levesque writes a weekly column for the Clarion on mixed martial arts. He will cover MMA at the local, state and national levels. His handle on Twitter is @scottlevesque.