Local mixed-martial arts promoter Fran Evans, 28, hit a bump early this year with his local outfit Locked in the Cage, a small MMA company based in Port Richmond (profiled in an August 2011 issue of PW). The South Philly arena, where he’d been holding his fights, folded. His public relations assistant left, and a match he later held in Bucks County flopped. It made him ponder his future in the business, and come to a not-so-shocking conclusion: He grew up in Kensington, lives in Port Richmond and has his office right off Aramingo Avenue; that’s what he knows, so that’s where his shows should be based. He hired a new staff and is working on a new gym in Port Richmond. He says he’d eventually like to open an MMA after-school program.
You’ve got an October show coming up in Port Richmond. Do you plan on staying at that gym long-term?
I’m really set on the next year or two to open a facility in a rougher neighborhood. I want it more borderline, where people from Port Richmond will still go, but I want it in a rough area. I want to get access to the kids, give them an opportunity to train.
You mean like Kensington?
Yeah ... I really want something right off of the York-Dauphin [El stop]. I want to help out the community by teaching kids martial arts and getting them involved, but also giving people who wouldn’t have the chance to be able to train because of the pricing. Let’s face it, mixed-martial arts is $150 per month to go to gyms, and the quality of the coaches at them gyms are pretty decent, but the gyms that are 80 bucks, and 90 bucks … they just don’t have the qualifications to teach people. So, it doesn’t make sense for you to go to one of those gyms ’cause all you’re getting is a heavy bag and a class to run around in a couple nights a week. I think if I can get access to these kids, I can give ‘em a place to come in. I can teach them myself, but I’m gonna bring in coaches.
I’m gonna take a run with them and say ‘Look, this is for a cause.’ I think I’ll change a lot of people’s minds about what MMA is. People are making money off of this, and a lot of people think it’s all about the money and I want to prove to people there are people who care. I care enough that I’m gonna give back to the community.
How do you think MMA can help kids?
It helped me change my life. I grew up in Kensington … I had the right parents that helped me and I still chose to get in trouble and be a knucklehead. A lot of kids don’t have access to mixed-martial arts so they don’t have an outlet to plug in. They have an opportunity [with this] sport to change their lives and their families’ lives. Boxing is so much easier for them to get access to, so I just want to make it more accessible for them, and I know [it takes] discipline because mixed-martial arts is a lifestyle; you don’t just train MMA and fight. You train, you eat right, you live right, you think about things right. Consequences matter to you, because everything is life has consequences and martial arts is the same way. You make a wrong move, you’re gonna get hurt.
So, you think there’s discipline you learn in MMA you can’t get from boxing?
The discipline that’s involved in being a mixed-martial artist, there’s no way you’re going to get that from boxing, or even wrestling. Guys I knew who were wrestlers, today, they … work hard every day. It’s the same with MMA. But martial arts embeds that into your brain: Work hard. Live right. You are always looking at the next thing you can achieve to make you more successful. (Randy LoBasso) n
Show starts at 7pm on Oct. 6. $45. Locked in the Cage Arena, 3824 Jasper St. lockedinthecage.com
The body odor permeating the confined South Philly arena runs about as deep as the 700 people packed inside. The floor is sticky. Many in the crowd are drunk. On this July evening, they’ve come from near and far with a common goal: to witness someone “get knocked the fuck out,” as one fan puts it, during a night of mixed-martial-arts cage fighting.