Gym sets its eyes beyond Malaysia's shores

  • SME
  • Friday, 23 May 2014

IRONICALLY, Jasper Chai, one of the partners behind the successful local mixed-martial arts (MMA) gym, Muayfit, is not really big on the fighting sport himself.

“I tried it out for a while, but I just could not keep up. I am more of a fitness guy, actually,” said Chai, 31, who had over a decade of experience running a fitness chain before joining Muayfit in Nov 2011.

Currently, the gym operates in Three-Two Square in Section 19, Petaling Jaya. The outfit is in the process of expansion.

A second Muayfit centre is expected to open this mid-June in Damansara Perdana, Chai said, while another outlet in Kota Kemuning is still in the planning stages.

“The Damansara Perdana outfit will have a 470 sq m space and a lifestyle’-oriented concept,” he explained.

“The new Muayfit is more fitness-based and will be targeting a slightly different market segment, with a focus on the population in its vicinity,” Chai said.

He elaborated that the new gym will also be more family-oriented and “relaxed”, although it will also run the same classes and schedules Muayfit is known for.

But the company is looking beyond Malaysian borders for expansion. Chai said they are looking at the Philippines.

“We have the contacts and are working towards opening a location there,” he said.

He declined to reveal in detail the gym’s annual earnings, but said growth has been between 50% and 60% in the past 30 months.

“We price the gym membership competitively without compromising our image,” said Chai.

He said the gym does not want to price its membership fee too low as it would attract a less serious crowd who might just turn up for class one or twice.

However, Chai said, pricing the fee too high, would restrict their client pool.

“Either way, it would be difficult to build a solid client base.”

He said the gym currently generates about RM120,000 to RM130,000 a month in membership fees. The highest Muayfit has hit on its membership drive so far is RM170,000.

Aside from competitive pricing, Chai said the other move to ensure a solid client base is to build a wide range of credentialed coaches and fighters to ensure the brand’s credibility.

“Getting fighters and gym members to participate actively, both locally and abroad, helps a lot in building brand credibility,” Chai explains.

“You have ONE FC (Fighting Championship) locally, but we also send people to Japan and New Zealand, thus expanding our network of contacts overseas,” he continued.

The active participation and promotion efforts have paid off said Chai, explaining that they are now collaborating with Hong Kong film producers and providing training for the stuntmen involved in action scenes.

The number of women showing an interest in MMA is growing.

“Two to three years back, the female client base was less than 10% but has grown to nearly 30% now.”

Based on their experience in operating the current gym, Chai projects that their new Damansara Perdana gym will have the same attraction and growth.

The competitive spirit in MMA fighting also sometimes boils over into real-life and “trash-talking” between gyms occasionally crops up.

“Well, there was one incident where we actually invited the other party to come over and settle it on the mat.

“But on the whole, trash-talking is part of the whole experience and it helps generate more publicity actually,” said Chai.

It is not all about fighting and fitness for Chai, who just test-drove the new Nissan Teana 2.5XV.

“I am a car buff and follow developments and the latest releases closely. As luck would have it, Motor Trader, a local car magazine, is also one of our sponsors,” said Chai.

Chai said he likes the driving experience that the Nissan Teana offers.

“It is ‘smooth’ and I can see myself going on long-distance trips with this car.”

He said a major plus point of the new Nissan Teana is that it has been updated with a more aggressive, sporty exterior.

“The accelaration and torque is very smooth, and the controls are much easier to understand than some continental cars,” he added.

Chia says the nine Bose speakers strategically placed in the car’s interior are also a major plus point.

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