Ohio's first UFC Gym is alive and kicking in Middleburg Heights

Tim Stewart has always been a big believer in listening to his intuition. After all, he bought an engagement ring for his wife, Kellie, when they were still just close friends and not even dating yet.

So when Tim heard that familiar inner voice once again while visiting a UFC gym in Kailua, Hawaii, he listened—and two years later, he and Kellie have opened Ohio’s first UFC gym franchise in Middleburg Heights.

“It’s like a light bulb moment when it hits,” says Tim. “When you know, you know.  It’s a huge jump and a huge risk, but I don’t want to look back and wonder, ‘What if?’ Even just talking about it, I have crazy goosebumps.”

The UFC Gym crew at the grand openingIf the initial response is any indication, Tim’s internal GPS is steering him right yet again. Since its soft launch in mid-May, UFC Gym Middleburg Heights has attracted approximately 700 members—a number that continues to grow since the facility’s grand opening last Saturday, June 5. Located in Southland Shopping Center, the 28,000-square-foot gym offers a wide array of machines, equipment, and 1,000 square feet of turf—along with an on-site childcare, massage recovery room, and more.

“Mixed martial arts is the fastest-growing sport in the world, so interest and participation is growing around the world,” says Kellie, who co-owns the gym with Tim. “People are wanting to learn for various reasons: self-defense, learning a new sport, getting back into exercise, or just for fun.”

To that end, the new gym offers not only instruction in MMA (mixed martial arts), but also Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, yoga, kickboxing, and circuit training. According to Tim, the goal is to provide the type of top-notch training MMA athletes receive in a safe, non-combative, and welcoming environment.

Kellie and Tim“We literally have something for everyone—our youngest member is 5 years old and our oldest is 90,” says Tim, who cites his late uncle as his inspiration for wanting to help others get fit. “I want a place where people can fight for their health, literally. People ask, ‘Are you a fighting gym?’ and I say, ‘Yes, we fight obesity. We fight diabetes. We fight for our families. We fight bullying.’”

Though Tim is a Cleveland native, he and Kellie currently reside in Indianapolis, where Kellie is enrolled in graduate school at Butler University and Tim works as a medical sales representative. Right now, the couple commutes back and forth from Cleveland, staying with friends and family, but they plan to relocate back to The Land to run the gym full-time.

“Tim and I want to start our family in Cleveland — that’s where our support system and our gym family is,” says Kellie. “That’s our next chapter, for sure.”

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.