Once it was announced The Ironfist Gym would be closing down, There were more than a few students feeling lost in limbo. Many were wondering which way their fighting careers would head, but also where all their friends would end up training and if they would still be together. Ironfist Muay Thai wasn’t just a gym, it was a community and a family.
Ironfist was owned and run by Daniel Bell, who was a fierce fighter in his younger years and a world-class trainer who had built many champions, but with family and personal business commitments amounting up to over the years, had found himself unable to give the level of commitment to Ironfist that he felt was necessary.
In November of 2014, Daniel Bell informed all of his members that Ironfist would cease operations at the end of the year, meaning that everybody had a month to figure out what they were going to do once it closed. There was talk of going to other gyms nearby, and many offers from gyms to use their facilities until things got figured out. There was no immediately clear answer, but everyone.
After a few days of the morning, the end of the Ironfist era, Ben Johnston and James Jarvie made the decision that they would create a new gym at a different location. Needless to say, the Ironfist fighters and a large amount of the beginners class were all on board. The hard work was only just beginning, as the time came to find a suitable location. Ben and James were looking for a place that could fit all of the current and potential future students in but wasn’t too far from Ironfist. They settled on the old dance school at 1/15 Watland Street in Springwood, and once all approvals from Logan City Council had been acquired, the task of filling it with the appropriate equipment to run a Muay Thai gym had begun.
With Ironfist no longer requiring all of its equipment, Daniel was happy to sell it to Ben and James. The equipment included the commercial weights, the heavy bags, and most importantly, Ironfist Boxing ring, which still had the ropes from the ring of the legendary, but now closed, Brisbane Festival Hall. Those ropes had seen countless champions compete inside of them, including the likes of Tony Mundine, Paul Briggs, Ian Jacobs and many other champions of Boxing and Muay Thai. It was a piece of history that could remain in the gym, as a quiet reminder to all of the students whenever stepped over them, of what had come before.
By the time the Gym opened its doors on January 5th of 2015, training had begun that same day. The first fighter’s class of TFC under Masato Fujumori would christen the gym, and the atmosphere was exactly as it should have been. Everyone still had a wistful longing for the Ironfist shed but were excited about the fresh start and keen to be a part of making a new reputation of The Fight Centre – Brisbane.
The first fight show after the new gym had commenced operations was to be at “Battle by the Bay”. The Fight Centre – Brisbane had Andy Smith scheduled to fight on the undercard and Ben Johnston as the main event, meaning that Andy would do the honours of having the first fight out of the new gym. In a twist of fate, Andy’s opponent pulled out of the fight only a week before it was scheduled. With only a week to find another opponent and no fighters wanting to take on someone as experienced as Andy without good preparation, Ben was now the first fighter to represent the gym under the new TFC banner. Ben knocked his opponent out in the first round, making him the winner and the new WBC Australian Champion.
In first six months after it’s opening, The Fight Centre – Brisbane went on to win 3 more Queensland titles, 2 Australian titles, and 2 world titles. An effort that any gym would be proud of earning throughout their entire existence. One of these Australian titles was won by Andy Smith, who kept fighting after breaking both of his arms in the first round and knocked his opponent out with elbows in the 4th. Easily the toughest story going around in Australian Muay Thai.
The Fight Centre – Brisbane has plans to build the new breed of fighters starting from the Juniors. The kids’ Muay Thai classes have proven successful, with a recent in-house fight show, where the students had to opportunity to showcase the skills they had been learning. The rules of no contact to the head made it possible for the boys and girls to really enjoy themselves during their exhibition bouts. No winners or loser, and no pressure. Smiles all around, and a proud group of parents and trainers. With a policy of not forcing any student to compete, but supporting the decision 100 per cent if they do, it was great to see every student on the day decide to have a crack and give their full effort. It is likely that there will be a few champions to come from the group in future years.
With fighters like Michael Thompson, Matty Seden, and the now-retired Jimmy Urwin, all making the transition from Ironfist to The Fight Centre – Brisbane, it was no surprise that foundation Ironfist had built would remain successful when carried over to the new gym. The structure, the work ethic, and the core members remained the same, only taking place in a different location and under new management.