First rule of fight club: Tell everyone how much you love said fight club. That’s one reason for the exponential success of Westchester Fight Club, a mixed martial arts (MMA) gym in New Rochelle. The other, and more important, reason is the wherewithal and hustle of CEO and owner Michael Chirico.
The 27-year-old Tuckahoe native founded the gym in 2010 after a two-year stint at Northwestern Mutual left him feeling unrewarded. “I didn’t want to do the regular 9 to 5,” Chirico says. So he took his savings and decided to become his own boss, combining his lifelong connection to martial arts (evidenced by his black belt in Tae Kwon Do and undefeated record as an amateur MMA fighter) with his business acumen to launch Westchester Fight Club.
Chirico put his nose to the grindstone, studying everything from specialized fitness information to how to set up websites. “What you learn in business school doesn’t give you an edge,” says Chirico, a Gabelli School of Business of Fordham University grad. He also sought out high-quality coaches, all of whom are professionally accomplished fighters themselves, like MMA champ Mike Stewart, who appeared on the reality TV series The Ultimate Fighter. “All the good training at the time was either in Long Island or Manhattan, and I saw a good opportunity for it here,” Chirico says.
Chirico’s cultivation of quality has lead to the club’s growth from just 50 members its first year to its more than 500 current members. In fact, Chirico had to find a bigger space to accommodate the growth, upgrading from 5,000 square feet to a 13,000-square-foot space. And, since he’s not just resting on his laurels, don’t be surprised to see a few more locations in the next couple of years.