By Nat Wilkins, Brooklyn, NY, 5/25/18—Today, BrooklynFights takes you to the sunny shores of Bali, an Indonesian island in the South Pacific, a few hours’ plane ride from Australia. Travelers from all over the world are drawn here by white sand beaches, world-class surfing and active nightlife. A culturally rich island referred to as The Island of Gods, Bali is primarily Hindu, boasting more than 20,000 temples packed into its 2,000 square miles of land. A great vacation in the making, but if you’re into combat sports tourism, there’s more.
That’s where Bali MMA comes in. We caught up with the destination gym’s co-founder, Don Carlo Clauss. A New Yorker and former pro MMA’er who fought for Bellator and other notable promotions, Clauss discovered Bali during a trip to visit a couple friends, Andrew and Anthony Leone, who were training in Thailand, at Phuket Top Team.
Clauss says he “went out and never looked back.”
A key piece of the coming together was an Indonesian man, Steve Suryadinata, who they met in Jakarta. “He wanted to bring jiu-jitsu and MMA to Indonesia. He started talking about a destination gym, and thought Bali would be cool.” So the Leone brothers and Clauss partnered with Suryadinata, with the four becoming business partners and establishing Bali MMA in 2015, one year after Clauss relocated from the states.
It wasn’t his initial plan to open a destination gym.
At 33 years old, Clauss was planning to stick around Thailand a while to train for more pro fights on top of the 20 he’d already had.
But the inevitable—time and wear— caught up with Clauss, who suffered a neck injury and “decided to move on.”
Now at 38, and with a successful business in paradise, Clauss reflects, “It was the right time to step away from fighting and focus on the business and the team.”
Today, Bali MMA has 6 onsite residential rooms, and they also work with guests on booking nearby hotels and villas. The facility includes a boxing ring, 40×40 BJJ and MMA training room, and 20 heavy bags. An onsite cafe provides refreshment. Bali MMA has plans to expand in January, 2019, with a new building that will house another ring, a cage, more bags and BJJ mats.
Something for Everyone
As for Bali MMA’s clientele, Clauss says he gets a range of skill and experience levels, comprising largely Aussies, New Zealanders, Europeans and Americans. “There are a lot of Europeans in Bali. We get everything from beginners to UFC fighters,” he told BrooklynFights. “We have a pro fight team with about 20 professional fighters who are over here long term and training and fighting in our gym.”
“We also get a lot of digital nomads, people who can make their money online and live in Southeast Asia where the cost of living is cheap and the training is good.”
A Day in the Fight Life
The intensity with which you train at Bali MMA is entirely up to you. “We have a pretty robust schedule – yoga, MMA, boxing, Muay Thai,” noted Clauss. “Most people wake up, have breakfast, come in to train for morning sessions, leave, shower, go to the beach, maybe surf, and then do an evening training session.” He concluded, “We have people who train a couple times a week, some who train a couple times a day. We have beginners and pros.”