An MMA fighter has opened a new gym in Bury, offering free classes to teenagers "regardless of background".  

Sam “Smooth” Spencer, 29, from Rossendale, began training as an MMA fighter in 2010 aged 17, turning professional after studying criminology at the University of Salford when he turned 21.  

Bury Times: Sam Spencer fighting Sam Spencer fighting (Image: Public)

The fighter said that although he loved it, he felt "selfish at times" and had been looking for the right time to build something up to help others get into MMA.  

Sam said: “I loved it but I had l terrible luck with getting injured to the point where eight or nine years after going professional, I wanted to try something else that helped others and meant I wasn’t constantly relying on being uninjured.”  

Having coached in the past, Sam said he would jump at the chance to get his "own place" and after discovering a premises on Parson's Lane, he opened Smooth Combat Academy. 

With around 40 adult members now attending classes, Sam said his second goal was to do something for youngsters in the area.  

Bury Times: Sam Spencer at the Smooth Combat Academy Sam Spencer at the Smooth Combat Academy (Image: Newsquest)

He said: “I don’t want any barriers to entry, especially for kids.  

“This is an inclusive and safe environment for people, regardless of their background or athletic abilities and something, that I found personally helped improve my confidence as a child. 

Bury Times: Inside the new gymInside the new gym (Image: Newsquest)

“I was shy and after I started fighting noticed that I could carry myself in conversations and interact with other people in high-stress situations.  

“After a long or difficult day, classes, training and MMA gave me an outlet to release any of that stress.”  

Bury Times: Inside the new gymInside the new gym (Image: Newsquest)

Free classes for children had been a "must" for Sam, who is now seeking community funding to help pay for the heating and electricity in the free hours of classes.  

He said: “There can be a stigma surrounding fighting, that it is too aggressive, or the fighting skills picked up may be used negatively but from years of experience, it kind of brings the shy kids up and humbles the arrogant.  

Bury Times: Sam teaching a class at Smooth Sam teaching a class at Smooth (Image: Public)

“It provides an outlet and a way of expressing yourself and teaches respect to children from an early age as well as a way of defending yourself if you ever need to. 

“It teaches you not to chase after fights.  

“Some children who I have taught over the past six years, have had a lot of fights and been in trouble but after training, they get to know like a bunch of experienced fighters that they can kind of look up to.” 

Bury Times: One of the free teen classes One of the free teen classes (Image: Public)

Sam and his dad renovated the site within six weeks of picking up the keys, calling in help from MMA friends and traders in return for some free classes.  

He said: “Me and my dad did most of the legwork but a few of the lads I've trained with over the years came down to help. 

Bury Times: Inside the Smooth Combat Academy Inside the Smooth Combat Academy (Image: Newsquest)

“It came around pretty fast which was incredible, and even though we haven’t made any adverts, we have just over 40 adult members already, we have only had one class that no one turned up to and that was when England was playing!”  

The free mixed martial arts training is for youngsters aged 12 to 17 in the Bury area completely free of charge on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5pm to 6pm.  

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