Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) — a combination of boxing, wrestling, karate, jiujitsu and kickboxing among other combat styles — tends to get a bit of gruff for being “excessively violent.” But Brainerd Lakes Fight Mafia (FAFIA), an MMA training center located in downtown Brainerd, is proving that the newly popularized sport is just as much about family as it is about fighting.
“We’re really just a giant and somewhat dysfunctional family,” said Alicia Nauheimer, whose fiance Steve Foslien owns and operates FAFIA. “You see how hard they train, and how much time is put into it, you become so close to everyone involved.
“We’ve become a family, watch each others kids, bring the kids to the gym and overall just really care about each other...watching them fight has brough that to us.”
Foslien, who hails from California, moved his MMA aspirations from Dallas to Brainerd just over three years ago. Starting from humble beginnings in his longtime friend, Christopher Santiago’s sister’s basement in to the building on Front Street that FAFIA is now housed in, the space allows everything from merchandise, to watching and of course actual training, as Foslien’s vision has now become a reality.
“This has been my passion and my livelihood for as long as I can remember,” said Foslien, who began his MMA training at the age of 8. “We’ve grown so much over the past three years, going from just a couple fighters on a (competition) card to nine for our latest (Savage Entertainment) upcoming event in April.
“And while we’re mainly an MMA school for guys who want to fight in the cage, lately we’re picking up a lot of moms and kids which has been awesome.”
FAFIA offers four different options outside of MMA training, with FAFIA (for adults interested in learning and training for MMA) lil’ FAFIA (MMA courses for kids 4-16), women’s power hour (self-defense and kickboxing) and men’s jiujitsu/boxing/self-defense. A little bit of something for everybody.
“FAFIA is really specifically designed for people looking to get in to cage fighting,” said Foslien, who has a purple belt in jiujitsu. “We do a lot of take down defense and cardio to train how to keep standing up and throwing punches.
“In our women’s class we do a lot of kickboxing, as that seems to be what they really want to do but we like to mix it up and do something new and different each time, especially trying to focus on getting out of a physically dangerous situation.”
“And then we’ve got 10-12 children in our lil’FAFIA right now, with our youngest being a four-year-old girl. They have a lot of fun in there, Matt Thurstin, one of our MMA fighters teaches that course and the kids have a great time with him.”
Apparent from the moment two lil’FAFIA members walked in to the studio, Nicki and Jill Glomski, was the amount of fun to be had by all ages.
“I love playing dodgeball in class,” said Jill with a giant grin on her face and who quickly added, “except when (Matt) Thurstin cheats!” To which he replied, “I don’t cheat I’m just that good.”