“The overall ambition is making MMA
a larger and more respected sport.”
High-quality training opportunities in picturesque settings are rare in any sport, but Noa Fridmark and Linus Johansson set out to create such a monumental atmosphere free from any club affiliations or prejudices for martial arts in Sweden. Now, MMA Academy is again gearing up for their Summer Camp, and this year they are adding UFC veteran Brandon “The Truth” Vera to the elite team of instructors. This year, camps come in two flavors, a Muay Thai & MMA Striking Camp June 29 – July 3 and an MMA Summer Camp July 6 – 10.
The two Swede’s were looking to “improve the image and social recognition of MMA”, while helping athletes take their “fighting skills to the next level”. With MMA in Sweden facing many misconceptions in the media and the general public, the two set out to show that “MMA isn’t about human cock fighting with savages pounding each other to pieces, but rather about serious athletes seeking out their best mental and physical shape through training and competition in a controlled environment.” The culmination of these goals and challenges have come in the form of Summer Camps held each summer south of Stockholm since 2009.
With Hanna Sillén stirring some excitement about rumored naked swimming outings and Magnus “Jycken” Cedenblad saying it’s “insanely f***ng fun!”, we learn more directly from one of the the two founders Linus Johansson –a taekwondo, boxing, and muay thai practitioner, and Lindy Hop (yea, that’s swing dance) expert– in this exclusive interview with MMA Viking.
MMA Viking : Tell us about the experience of your first camp in 2009, and how things have changed heading into 2011?
Johansson : Our first camp was like pure magic. We had worked our asses off for something like half a year to make our own dream-come-true camp – the type of camp we ourselves had been looking for but couldn’t find. You know, a camp totally independent form all beefs between different gyms, with top-notch instructors, seminars in different theoretic areas such as nutrition and mental training, and with an atmosphere so warm and welcoming even our grandmas’ would have enjoyed hanging out at the camp. No more macho attitudes, no more death skulls, no more bloody logos. And the best thing, everyone we asked to instruct at the camp really liked the idea, and everyone said yes. Our very own MMA dream team was gonna instruct. That felt pretty cool, and it was around that time we realized we had come onto something. Something that could be great…
Once at the camp in 2009, the atmosphere was exactly like we wanted it. Everyone was friendly, superbly nice and welcoming. Of course, we worked and trained like 24 hours a day that first camp week, but man, it was so worth it.
“The only thing I’m disappointed with
is that I didn’t think of this myself.”
–Waldo Zapata, Camp Instructor
Heading into Summer Camp 2011 it feels everything is much more under control. We have been able to think two more steps ahead, and it feels like we have the time and not least knowledge to improve everything one more notch. Now we not only try to arrange the best camp ever with the classes and all that, but also a camp people just want to be at to hang out, to socialize and get to know fighters from other gyms and countries. A good old summer camp – but for fighters. The BBQ evenings, the morning-yoga sessions, the massage treatments, the lake, the diving cliffs – all those things were in place for the first year. This year we’re trying to add things, like a full-size octagon, a wakeboard boat, the possibility for people (not only pros!) to train with UFC fighters, wrap-up seminars each evening summarizing the day’s classes, among other things.
And another big change is the camp is in English this year, making it much easier for all our international campers to come and experience the famous MMA Academy atmosphere.
MMA Viking : One of your overarching missions is to “improve the image and social recognition of MMA”. Please let us know how your camp aims to help with this change.
Johansson : We felt that too many people thought of MMA to be a sport just for tattooed macho men with steroid-pumped muscles and bad-ass attitudes. We knew this stereotype was all wrong, and we felt we wanted to be a part of the journey changing that.
Our first take on that was to arrange an MMA camp that didn’t show the stereotypical picture of MMA, but the opposite. An all-serious camp that showed that MMA fighters too were serious athletes not only into banging each others head off. Rather, we wanted to show the warm and friendly atmosphere we always had experienced when hanging out with fighters and training martial arts. And we wanted to show that to the world, why we also invited different Swedish news papers to come and write about the camp. We even managed to get one of the top-2 largest daily newspapers (Svenska Dagbladet) to come, and they were so impressed they wrote two full pages about the camp filled with positive words.
I remember our first meeting with the people at Vackstanäs (the place where the camp is held). We knew they were quite skeptical – “hey, two two guys want to come and talk about some weird violent sport” – but we managed to convince them to let us be there, and I think that mostly was thanks to our positive attitude, energy and boyish, naive looks. And our idea to create all-serious camps with superb fighters and theoretical seminars. And once the camp was up running, the chief at Vackstanäs was absolutely fantastic – he even said we were “the nicest group of people he had ever worked with“. That felt right into our hearts.
That’s probably the most important way we try to improve the image of MMA – to show a positive attitude and show everyone MMA isn’t about brutes beating each other senseless, but that we all are very friendly, social people just like everyone else. And that MMA athletes are very serious, just like athletes in any other sport.
MMA Viking : You are adding Brandon Vera to the MMA portion of the camp. What do you think he will bring to the academy?
Johansson : For the summer camp in 2010 we had been in real positive discussions with some really big UFC names like Randy Couture and Greg Jackson, but unfortunately it didn’t go all through. So for 2011 we tried even harder, and we were fortunate to get Brandon Vera. Brandon is known not only to be a superb fighter, but also to be a really good instructor. He even co-owned a boxing gym before he became a UFC star himself.
So we believe he will add an extra spice to the camp, not only with his international flair, but also with some really great techniques and fighting ideas. Besides, we will also have an inspirational Q&A session with Brandon at the camp, talking about his story and how he have managed to come so far. Hopefully, this will inspire our campers to do great things themselves, and become even more dedicated in their training.
MMA Viking wishes MMA Academy all the success with helping grow mixed martial arts in a positive way. All photos are courtesy of MMA Academy.