BERLIN — Located just off Route 113 in Berlin, OC Fight Club is searching for amateurs and aspiring champions alike to step into the ring or the cage.
“There are different levels,” said Fight Club owner Charlie Rites.
With more than 15 years combined experience in training and fighting, Rites operated a large boxing gym in western Maryland for several years before re-locating to the shore to pursue less physical business interests. However, when he found himself with a surplus of space in his Berlin facility, Rites decided to get back in the ring.
After converting a storage space into a fully-functional boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) gym complete with cage and ring, Rites said that he immediately saw interest from a wide range of people.
“We’ve got some young kids,” he said. “I have a lot of police officers that come in.”.
Rites stressed the benefits of a boxing- or MMA-style workout.
“You can do it for cardio or you can do it for self-defense,” Rites said.
OC Fight Club offers an even wider range than usual, he continued, because it specializes in both traditional Olympic boxing and the more modern MMA, which is a combination of boxing, wrestling and a variety of martial arts.
“It’s kind of unique because we have boxing and a cage,” he said.
While Rites concentrates on boxing, he has brought in other instructors for areas like judo and Brazilian jujitsu, both staples of MMA. By bringing in all of these resources and experience, Rites said OC Fight Club is able to offer a comprehensive training set for competition.
“Fights are generally won at the gym … I make sure they have defensive skills and offensive skills,” he said.
Though only open for about six months, the club has already produced one seasoned competitor in Phil Patey, who recently won a Stellar Fights MMA championship in the 205-pound division at the Harrington Casino in Delaware this spring.
Rites noted that he has a few other fighters on the rise, including Worcester County native Latra Collick, who will head over the bridge later this month to compete in a boxing match in Millersville. At 155 pounds, Collick has a lot of options with his fighting career, said Rites, especially since he was a veteran wrestler in high school and could make the transition from boxing to MMA.
“He could be an awesome fighter,” Rites predicted. “The sky’s the limit with that guy.”
Competition is always a focus for any fight club, according to Rites, and the guys in training got a nice bump earlier this summer when MMA legend Royce Gracie stopped by. However, Rites promised that amateurs just coming in for a workout or to learn some basic self-defense won’t be intimidated or ignored.
“They come in, they start out slow,” he said. “It’s more instructional for beginners … There’s no pressure to do any kind of contact at all.”
In the future, Rites said that he would like to see more community outreach and interaction with the club, including having more kids sign-up for beginner’s lessons. He also hopes for additional backing from the community, in the form of business partnerships, advertisements and donations.
“I need the support of the community,” said Rites, noting that involvement with a fight club is a strong “avenue” to promote advertising.
So far, he added, Ryan James, owner of Mother’s Cantina in Ocean City, has been one of OC Fight Club’s biggest supporters.
Though he has a lot of ambition for where the club can go in the next few years, Rites acknowledged that for the time being the main thing is to get people interested in the sport and the fitness aspect of boxing and MMA. He suggested that anyone who has ever thought about boxing or MMA stop by the club for a tour and a free first training session. Boxing classes are every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5-8 p.m. while judo/jujitsu is every Tuesday and Thursday from 7-9 p.m.
For more information, contact Rites at 410-352-5353.