A Day In The Life at Team Chamber MMA: A Personal Experience Alongside Hettes, McCray, and Cioffi By:Eric Kowal Date:02 February 2012 (0) Team Chamber MMA has supplanted itself as the top mixed martial arts gym in northeastern Pennsylvania. Loaded with talented fighters, top-notch trainers, and infectious attitudes, Don Cioffi and company have remained a steadily growing school while having a few competitors excel on the grandest stage. Recently, I was able to witness just why the gym has become so successful and was able to document a day in the life of Team Chamber MMA. Enjoy.
My day began with a text message from Chamber MMA owner, Don Cioffi at 6:40 a.m. “We still have tickets available for Donnie Cioffi’s fight in Philadelphia 2/11,” the message said. “Donnie has had a great camp and is looking to impose his will,” it continued. Donnie, the younger Cioffi, is that apple that did not fall too far from the tree. He followed in his father’s footsteps of becoming a professional fighter and has been training since age four. Chamber MMA’s mantra, “Impose Your Will,” means many things to many different fighters, but when it comes to the Cioffi family, the determination and desire to stride for victory is always evident. Donnie will compete on Feb. 11 at Xtreme Caged Combat: Wreckage in Philadelphia against Harry Dickey (no, it’s not a bad Beavis and Butthead joke, that’s his real name).
Later in the day, the elder Cioffi would again send me another text message. “Eric, if you want to stop by tonight for team training Jimy Hettes will be in.” Now when I say “team,” that’s exactly what I mean. Chamber MMA is the name of the facility but the fight team stamps the word “Team” in front of the name, representing cohesion. Hettes, coming off the biggest win of his career over Nam Phan on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas does not look like your average fighter. He has a small frame, looks relatively young, and does not look like much of a brawler, however if you watched UFC 141 you would be wise to know otherwise. I have been following Hettes for a few years now as he is one of the most popular fighters in the Pennsylvania fight circuit. He hails from Swoyersville, Pa., and currently fights in the 145 pound division. I first saw him burst on the scene at Cage Fight 5 when he submitted Dwayne Shelton in just 49 seconds into their fight. Since then he’s won four more fights including two in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
At a perfect 10-0, with nine coming by way of submission, Hettes is on cloud nine. I walked into Chamber MMA about ten minutes into the team’s training session. Roughly 20 guys were jogging in a circle on the mats, warming up for their upcoming class. As I glanced to my left I see Hettes and he looks exactly the same as he did when he was fighting on the smaller shows. Nothing about him had changed. If he had spent his UFC win purse on a haircut and new fight shorts it did not seem apparent. Sitting in the chairs to my left was fight promoter, Jonathan Kernis. “Jimy is the last honest person on this earth,” Kernis said. “He doesn’t care about the publicity. He doesn’t fight for the money,” he said. That would set the tone for the night.
I respected Hettes’ approach and did not interrupt his training session for comment. Instead I photographed his every move, watching how he craftfully transitioned from submission technique to submission technique. As I knelt down to get a close-up shot, Don came over to me and whispered “his jiu-jitsu is on another level.” I could not agree more. He was grappling with a purple-belt from the Renzo Gracie Academy in Newark, N.J., but it did not phase Hettes. He controlled the pace and he dominated each position with ease. Because I was so focused on Hettes I did not even notice that former Ultimate Fighter competitor Kris “Savage” McCray was also training in the facility.
Savage would have gone undetected had he not been pointed out to me. He looked much different than when he appeared on season 11 of the hit reality series on Spike. His hair was much longer, and it looked like he had skipped a few days shaving his face, nonetheless, there was a fighter who was one fight away from being crowned the Ultimate Fighter. McCray lost in the finals to Court McGee. McCray had set the record for total fights during a season, having fought five times in total. UFC President Dana White commented during the final episode that McCray had fought "literally every Tuesday" since he got in the house. McCray lost his next two bouts in the UFC and moved back down to smaller organizations where he has been virtually flawless. According to Kernis, McCray recently signed a three-fight deal with Bellator and will compete in the welterweight division. Both Hettes and McCray worked with nearly every competitor in the gym last night, not as seminar instructors but as training partners.
They each brought their own training regimens and shared with some of the professionals and amateur who train there as well as those who just take the class for instructional purposes. I also had the opportunity to speak with professional mixed martial artist Rich Patishnock. Patishnock is perfect at 4-0 as a pro and is looking to get back into action in the early spring. He trains at both Chamber MMA and at AMA Fight Club in Whippany, N.J. where brothers, Dan and Jim Miller also train. Both the Miller brothers fight in the UFC, along with Charlie “the Spaniard” Brenneman who also trains at AMA but has made appearances at Chamber MMA as well. “I make every opportunity to rotate in team sessions at both gyms” Patishnock said.
“I chose this path.” By path, Patishnock means