Is Diaz Combat Sports’ new academy the design of the future?

Custom-designed HVAC at Diaz Combat Sports may be the future of martial arts school design. 

The academy’s new, $5 million facility in Vancouver, Canada, includes a specially designed, $250,000 HVAC system to protect students, staff, families and visitors against the coronavirus. 

“The HVAC was already in the plans before COVID,” says owner and former MMA bantamweight champion Ryan “The Lion” Diaz. “But because of COVID, we customized it to help fight and prevent contracting the virus. We added extra air filters, ensured that new fresh air was being cycled in while old air was being pushed out. We are researching now if we are able to add Hepa filters. You can feel that this $250,000 unit is making a huge difference in the air flow of the gym.”

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Diaz 13 wins include 3 KOs and 10 submissions

Diaz, a two-time MMA champion, has a record of 13 wins and 14 losses. He won three by knockout and 10 by submission, including armbars, triangle, reverse triangle. He describes himself as a striker, having trained extensively in Muay Thai, but his record on submissions show he knows the mat. He is a purple belt in BJJ.

Diaz offers a free week trial membership as part of the opening of the facility, which offers Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, kickboxing and fitness classes.

Head BJJ instructor is Stuart Cooper, an accomplished BJJ black belt and well-known Jiu Jitsu documentary film maker.

Diaz talks about his fighting, his academy and MMA in this question and answer with Grappling Insider.

GI: Why did you decide to build a new academy?

Diaz: I wanted to share my passion and love for martial arts with the people of Vancouver. I knew if I didn’t have martial arts, I would never know where I would end up. So I wanted to give others the same chance that I had. Also, in Vancouver there was never a martial arts school that was at the level of the rest of the world. So I wanted to give Vancouver a place that put us up there with the best on earth.

GI: There are lots of new features to yours that you don’t see in other gyms, like refreshments, the women-only classes and you mention that it’s not about everybody trying to be ultra-tough. What made you add those special features?

Diaz: This was the one thing that I learned from travelling and training all over the world. To be tough you don’t have to act tough. The toughest people out there don’t need to tell you they are tough or act like it, they just are. When it came to the gym, we wanted a place that has something for everyone. We wanted a dream facility that has everything.

GI:  The HVAC is really nice. Was this added to protect against COVID? What other steps are you taking to protect students, teachers and families?

Diaz: The HVAC was already in the plans before COVID. But because of COVID we customized it to help fight and prevent contracting the virus. We added extra air filters, ensured that new fresh air was being cycled in, while old air was being pushed out. We are researching now if we can add Hepa filters. You can feel that this $250,000 unit is making a huge difference in the air flow of the gym. We are taking sooooooo many extra precautions during this time from instructors wearing masks, to limiting classes, to not letting members in until members from the class before are out. We are also doing temperature checks upon entry, we have marked exit and entry doors, small group training (you are only allowed to partner within your designated groups) in addition to many many more guidelines. For our precautionary measures, there is a full list on our website.

GI:  You have some top Jiu Jitsu professors. How important do you see Jiu Jitsu for MMA competitors? For self-defense?

Diaz: Jiujitsu is so important in MMA and for self-defense. I always remember the saying 90 percent of fights end up on the ground. I don’t know if that’s really true or not, but I believe knowing the ground is very important because many fights do end up on the ground. I’m pretty sure over 90 percent of my fights ended up at the ground at some point LOL. Jiujitsu is known as the art that teaches a smaller individual to beat a bigger opponent through joint manipulations, chokes and submissions so why wouldn’t it be important? Knowledge is power so you want to know everything you can. 

GI:  Are you training any students for Jiu Jitsu competition? For MMA?

Diaz: I have so many students I train for both Jiujitsu and MMA competitions. I train children for competitions in addition to many high-level UFC fighters.

GI:   I think you have created a model for the future academy. Do you think others will follow your lead?

Diaz: Yes. I get tons of messages for advice on what I did for this gym and how I do things, so definitely people will and are following my lead. Some are great about it, and openly contact me about it, while others blatantly copy what we do and try to take credit for it. But as they say imitation is the best form of flattery.

GI: Why Chinatown as your location? I have been there and it’s a great community.

Diaz: It was kind-of  by accident, but a great accident. Bruce Lee started his gym in Chinatown in San Francisco. I’m not comparing myself to Bruce Lee, but as more of an homage to him, why not do the same? In addition, when I was six, my family used to get together at a restaurant in Chinatown every Sunday for Dim Sum. 

GI: Who are the top five fighters (MMA) today? And who are the top Jiu Jitsu competitors today?

Diaz: Top five MMA, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Israel Adensanya, Kazmat Chimeav (I know he hasn’t fought the top competition, but I believe he is the real deal), Amanda Nunes and Jon Jones.

Top Jiujitsu competitors Gordon Ryan, Gary Tonon, Tanquinho, Marcelo Garcia (I know he’s retired, but I had to put him on here), with honorable mentions to Craig Jones and JT Torres.

GI: Do you hold a belt in Jiu Jitsu? How long have you trained in Jiu Jitsu? And favorite techniques?

Diaz: I wanted to stay a white belt forever. lol. But three guys actually held me down and fought me for my white belt and gave me a purple belt. HAHAHAHAH. My favorite submissions are armbar and triangle. If you look up my MMA record, I actually won most of my fights by submission. There’s even a flying triangle choke and flying armbar in there somewhere. 

GI: Is Muay Thai your striking art of choice? You have top level teachers there.

Diaz: I absolutely love Muay Thai, but to me the best striker is one that can incorporate American style boxing with the elbows, knees and kicks of Muay Thai — while maintaining a boxer type rhythm yet be able to defend takedowns and low kicks. Sorry, complicated answer. I am an MMA striker. That’s my specialty. 

Garrison Wells

Garrison Wells is a third degree black belt in Nihon Jiu Jitsu, third degree black belt in Goju Ryu karate and author of six books on the martial arts for beginning students. He is an award-winning journalist for writing, editing, and investigative reporting across the U.S. He lives in Albuquerque and is the owner of Live Oak Center for Martial Arts and Healing.

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