To Live and Train In New Jersey: Pure Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness by Nick “NJ” Holden

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Whether you’re a lover or a fighter you’ll enjoy Nick “N.J” Holden’s 
blow by blow tale of his mixed martial arts training in the Garden State by, Andy Main, 
a former competitor on UFC’s Ultimate Fighter
With the burgeoning of the fitness craze sweeping the nation, people are partaking in all forms of fitness beyond lifting things up and putting them down in a gym populated by sweat, B.O., and the hit parade playing on Pandora. More and more people are turning to a more intense fitness regiment offered by martial arts schools. Mixed martial arts is slowly becoming one of the top sports in the country, no thanks in part to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, and other various promotions. Mixed martial arts, or MMA, is different from other traditional sports in that it encompasses multiple disciplines, from wrestling and boxing to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, and judo. Martial arts have always intrigued me, ever since Daniel La Russo won the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament in California, and inspired me to train in Okinawan karate under Sensei John Porta of Porta’s Karate-Do and Kobudo Academy in Pompton Lakes for ten years. But with my hormones and high school kicking ass in my teen years, I abandoned karate in pursuit of cross country, video games, and college. But after much debate, I decided to reenter the world of martial arts when I enrolled at AMA Fight Club in Whippany, NJ through a chance encounter with Andy Main, who at the time was a competitor on the UFC reality series The Ultimate Fighter. I became friends with Andy and Mikey, his younger brother, two instructors at AMA who have branched out and started their own martial arts school, PURE Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness. But Andy is quick to point out that PURE is not just your typical martial arts school.

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“For mixed martial arts, whether it’s boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, etc., it’s important for the people coming in that they know they are learning from someone who’s done it, and for us, we have a following because of the experience.” Despite their youth, the Main brothers have extensive experience in the MMA field. Both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belts, their lineage can be traced back to the world famous Gracie family in Brazil. Andy is a professional fighter holding a 6-1-1 (as of this writing) record. He has trained in boxing under Teddy Lucio and Hall of Famer Louis Esa as well as Muay Thai under numerous coaches such as Mike Constantino and Kemail Verhoeven. Before he was old enough to drive, Mikey has been competing and winning championship belts and gold medals in grappling tournaments such as the No-Gi Pan Americans, the Abu Dhabi Regionals, and the Renzo Gracie Invitational. He also scored the fastest submission victory in his second MMA fight in December of last year and plans to make fighting more of a priority in the years to come. Mikey’s road hasn’t been easy, despite having an accomplished brother in the sport, but he feels that starting at an early age gave him an advantage over other competitors.
“I started competing when I was just 15 years old. Back then teen divisions were very rare, so I was often forced into adult divisions. Being 15 years old and fighting grown up men required me to evolve at a very fast pace which is why I believe I’ve had as much success as I’ve had thus far.” PURE, located in Denville, prides itself on not being a mere learning center, but instilling a lifestyle on its students. Mikey said, “My philosophy on BJJ is that it is not just a hobby, it is a way of life. BJJ changes a person’s physical appearance which reflects in all other areas in a person’s life. An improvement in a person’s physique makes them more confident in work, school, etc. Also the ability to defend yourself brings a person more confidence in their everyday life.”

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PURE’s class schedule takes place six days a week, from Monday to Saturday, usually during the evening when people fight through the Garden State’s various gridlocks. The class schedule offers Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (both gi and no gi, a gi being available to purchase at the school; additional gear can also be purchased there, such as hand wraps, gloves, etc.), fitness kickboxing, and striking/sparring; all classes are under the careful eye of the Main brothers, as explained by Mikey. “It is very rare to have two instructors teaching on the mat at all times. Basically our members are getting two for the price of one. Also, Andy and I are still active competitors and will be competing right alongside our students. Most instructors these days have retired from their competition career, but in my eyes, ours are just beginning. Also, we pay extremely close attention to our students’ progression. We do our best to be sure everyone is at the rank they rightfully should be.”

Andy’s take on PURE is this: “Right now, even though there are a lot of martial arts gyms in the area, there are zero gyms in the area that have a professional fighter as the head instructor…We are such strong believers in what we do, in the martial arts.” But both brothers have an equal hand in the day to day operations and are geared toward not capitalizing on a business opportunity, but to enlighten people on what Andy explains is more than just a school. “The goal is really to get people to really fall in love with the art and develop goals of their own, whether it’s to compete once, whether it’s to be a champion, whether it’s to fight once, to become an MMA fighter, whatever they want to do, it’s to be able to facilitate a career or just facilitate whatever the student needs in terms of good technique, good training, and the right mindset to reach those goals. And I think, and I believed this for a long time, that every single person is an individual. There are techniques that you learn that are universal, but everybody is going to do it a bit differently based on their body type, size, whatever. There’s going to be differences in every person that need to be catered to.” Both brothers have slightly different styles in terms of fighting and grappling, and both use that to better communicate with their students, a defining factor in their teaching philosophies. But one cannot deny that to train under both of these fighters is quite an experience, actually training with professional fighters who are interested in helping out their fellow man and woman. From personal experience, I have grown as both a student and as a person and have utilized as much as I have learned in my training in addition to adhering to some of their philosophies, something that I believe every person can use in his or her everyday life.

Since opening in October, PURE’s class enrollment has steadily grown thanks in part to the infectious and positive attitude that both brothers display to their students. They are courteous, friendly, and are always ready to share their knowledge of techniques and strategies to whoever is willing to learn. So, with that in mind, keep an eye out for PURE Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness located at 100 Ford Rd. in Denville, New Jersey and check out their website at This is Nick NJ reminding everyone that life is not just a journey, but a goddamn adventure!

Follow Nick on Twitter @exiledinNJ

When Push Comes To Shove: WARRIOR – Review by Nick Holden


The Sexy Armpit’s featured writer Nick “N.J” Holden is back! Here’s his review of WARRIOR, a film featuring scenes filmed in Atlantic City as well as Tom Hardy a.k.a BANE in Dark Knight Rises!

You know what a crowd-pleaser is? Sure you do, when a movie makes the audience happy, such as when Daniel LaRusso rose up to kick uber-bully John Norris into the next world in The Karate Kid (the 1984 version, not the lame-ass remake) or when T.S. finally won Brandy’s heart in Mallrats (with a little assistance from good buddy Brodie). Both movies told simple stories and relied on the strength of the characters to push everything forward, and in some cases, made the film memorable despite plot holes and typical Hollywood clichés. The new film Warrior is a throwback to the crowd-pleaser, and while it won’t score points for originality, it makes up tremendously in character and brutal, but not gratuitous, martial arts action.

Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) is a former mixed martial artist turned teacher who is faced with overwhelming debt that threatens to leave him and his family homeless. Long estranged from his father (Nick Nolte), a former alcoholic boxer, he soon finds himself competing in small independent venues until he sees the brass ring; Sparta, an elimination-style tournament in Atlantic City that could help him avoid financial disaster. On the other side of the spectrum is his younger brother Tommy (Tom Hardy), a former Marine running from his past who turns to his father to help him train for Sparta. Eventually, after several violent battles, the brothers find themselves facing each other in the main event amidst much tension and family drama.

Basically, it’s Rocky meets The Fighter, only set in the world of MMA, fitting since it has exploded all over due to the popularity of Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, Strikeforce, and other promotions all over the world. Actors Edgerton and Hardy completely immerse themselves into their roles by bulking up (especially Hardy, who looks like a smaller version of The Hulk) and undergoing extensive martial arts training for the film’s numerous fight scenes. Also appearing in smaller roles are real-life fighters Nate “The Great” Marquardt, Erik Apple, and Anthony Johnson, giving the film an authentic feel. The appearance of TNA wrestler Kurt Angle as an invincible Russian fighter (shades of MMA superstar Fedor Emelianenko) seems a tad cartoonish, but the showdown between him and Brendan is one ferocious battle to be seen on film. Nick Nolte does an admirable job as the absentee father who tries to reconnect with both sons, but finds himself at odds with his own demons.

Mostly set in Pennsylvania, the film’s conclusion takes place in New Jersey’s own den of sin, Atlantic City. One of the more memorable takes place in the dead of night on the shores of NJ, when both brothers have a powerful reunion, with each man not sure of the other’s motives or if their fractured family will survive their in-cage encounter. A strength in Warrior is the focus on the individual above all else; there are no real villains that stand in the way of the brothers’ quest for glory, only their own pasts. Brendan struggles with trying to decide if he really has what it takes to go all the way and take home the ultimate prize. Tommy is running from his past and, while begrudgingly trains under his father, tries to make up for his own misgivings as a son and soldier. 

The film does have its flaws, however. It runs a tad too long (a hair over two hours) and the conclusion does leave many unanswered questions as to where the family stands after the final fight. It also has the clichés we’ve seen before; the principal who is against Brendan, then cheers him on, Brendan’s students all rallying for him, and montages of the training regiments. But if you’re into a crowd-pleaser on a nice weekend night or a fan of MMA, then Warrior is a nice breath of air; not fresh air, but good air nonetheless.