ACS: MMA's Next Superpower
The rise to power of Arizona Combat Sports as one of the top mixed martial arts gyms in the country was slow and steady. This was no overnight emergence.
ACS was started by two twin brothers who had no plans to run a martial arts school as their full-time profession. Todd and Trevor Lally just wanted a place to train after they relocated from Washington’s rain-drenched climate to Arizona’s barren desert.
Like many teenagers, the Lally brothers sought outlets through which to release their testosterone-fueled aggression. After team sports like rugby left them unfulfilled, they turned to martial arts. In 1991, after checking out several schools advertising “the fast track to becoming a certified black belt or your money back,” the brothers took a trip to the American Martial Arts Center, a local gym in Kirkland, Wash. Unbeknownst to the Lally brothers, they had stepped into what would later become AMC Kickboxing & Pankration, one of the sport’s top academies, now run by Matt Hume. Josh Barnett, Hayato "Mach" Sakurai and Rich Franklin have all called it home at one time or another.
“I was 17 years old, and I walked in the door and I saw Maurice Smith sparring someone, U.S. muay Thai champion Curtis Schuster [and] boxer Kim Messer,” Trevor said. “Legendary muay Thai instructor Huru Shuminishi came up to us and said to me and my brother, ‘You guys have the body of a Porsche, but you don’t know how to drive it. I will show you how to drive that car.’ As an angry 17-year-old kid, that’s what I wanted to hear.”
The Birth of ACS
Mainly testing themselves in kickboxing and Pankration tournaments prior to their involvement in MMA, the Lally brothers received their big break when they were asked to live and train at the Super Tiger gym in Japan while they competed inside the Shooto organization.
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