Las Vegas and London, England – UFC®, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, today announced a multi-year partnership with OnSide, one of the leading youth charities in the U.K, to establish a youth mentoring program at Youth Zone locations throughout the country.
Established in 2008, OnSide funds and builds state-of-the-art youth centers called “Youth Zones” in communities across the UK, providing young people aged 8-19 years old with affordable access to a wide range of positive activities and opportunities, and high-quality sports, arts and leisure facilities, all year long. Youth Zones also provide young people with access to trusted youth workers, providing guidance in areas including employability, and health and wellbeing.
Since its inception, 14 Youth Zones have been developed, supporting over 50,000 young people across the OnSide network of Youth Zones, and the charity has ambitious plans to grow this network to enable more young people to benefit.
The UFC – OnSide Youth Mentoring Program will be led by former UFC light heavyweight Jimi Manuwa, UFC welterweight Leon Edwards, and UFC middleweight Darren Till. Each athlete will lead a martial arts- focused mentoring program as part of the after-school health and wellness curriculum at three OnSide Youth Zones. Locations include the Youth Zone in South London (Croydon) led by Jimi; The Way Youth Zone in the Midlands (Wolverhampton) led by Leon; and The Hive Youth Zone in the Northwest (Wirral) led by Darren.
Jimi Manuwa, former UFC light heavyweight said: “I’m very proud that we have used our platforms and positions to be able to give back to our communities across the UK. Violent crimes, especially knife crimes, are very apparent in the cities we all grew up in and we want to help to give these kids other options in life that we didn’t have when we were growing up.”
The sport of mixed martial arts is proven to help young people develop a wide range of key skills to support their physical and mental health, including improved cognitive function and muscle strength, better balance and coordination, enhanced flexibility, and better self-awareness. The program aims to help young people develop these skills with focus on self-discipline and self-defense, while giving them access to inspirational expert coaches and instructors from UFC, in a safe and supportive way within a familiar environment.
Kathryn Morley, Chief Executive of OnSide said: “Giving young people positive opportunities to have fun, get fit, and connect with their peers will be even more important as we emerge from the pandemic. This partnership is a great opportunity to introduce young people across the network to an incredibly popular sport, and we are delighted to be working with UFC to launch this mentoring program and look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on young people across the OnSide network of Youth Zones.”
Young people aged 12-16 will be eligible to join the program, which will comprise weekly classes over a 6-8 week period. Participants will be selected through a combination of pre-existing membership of their local Youth Zone and from the local community. Each class will be conducted in small groups.
Classes will teach various levels of martial arts disciplines that are the foundation of mixed martial arts (Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu). In conjunction with training, this program will also periodically host youth engagement activities with law enforcement from the South Area Command Unit of the Metropolitan Police, providing opportunities for police officers to continually build relationships and trust in the community.
PC Dean Littlewood from South Area Command Unit in the Metropolitan Police Service said: “This is an exciting opportunity for the young people of Croydon and neighboring boroughs who will have the opportunity to focus their attention on maintaining their physical and mental well-being. As a huge fan of combat sports and UFC, I know first-hand how sport can change lives and encourage young people to take a more positive path. Legacy Youth Zone in Croydon is a treasure to the local community, and it will have all of the necessary facilities to ensure that young people are directed away from the lure of criminality and supported in a friendly and supportive atmosphere.”
Participants of this program will also receive access to the Youth Zone’s educational classes, tutoring, and after-school programs.
CEO of Legacy Youth Zone, Barnabas Shelbourne said: “We’re really pleased to be working in partnership with UFC and the Met Police to bring an exciting and engaging fitness and martial arts programme to Legacy.” He continued, “There will be multiple benefits for young people taking part including practical self-defense skills, improvements in strength, fitness, balance & co-ordination, confidence and discipline. Having Jimi Manuwa on board is absolutely fantastic, and we look forward to his high energy, experience, and training in this field.”
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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