Mixed martial arts (MMA) is so much more than fighting, according to Dale Middleton.
The 28-year-old MMA professional is using the sport to help build confidence in youngsters in Angus, encouraging them to make the best of themselves.
Dale first got involved in MMA as a teenager living in Middlesbrough.
“I must have been about 16 or 17 when I first started,” he said. “There wasn’t much to do and Middlesbrough isn’t a very well-off place.
“So you have to find something to do as a teenager and I chose MMA.
“I trained every week and became really involved in the sport; it gave me focus and a purpose.”
He reached such a level he was invited to go pro – until an injury unfortunately forced him to pull out.
“I nearly tore off my thumb at work,” explained Dale, who runs a construction business.
“I only have half a thumb now. So sadly I couldn’t go completely professional.”
Dale wasn’t one to sit and mope about his misfortune. He caught the travel bug which saw him head off around the world where he gained more experience.
“I’ve trained worldwide in various martial arts and combat sports, including boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo.
“I’ve lived and trained in Thailand, Australia, Canada and America for more than five years. Having that additonal experience has really helped with the classes I teach as well as my own confidence.”
Settled now in Brechin, Dale runs a wide range of classes at Jax MMA in Montrose and people of all ages and all walks of life have come through the door.
“The great thing about mixed martial arts is that anyone can do it – no matter how old you are or what your fitness levels are,” Dale explained.
“We have young kids from about five-years-old coming along and adults too. It’s helped boost their confidence and self-worth.
“There is very little mixed martial arts in Scotland at the moment but the benefits are tremendous.
“We had one guy about 34 years old who was really quiet – I don’t think he even spoke to anyone his first day.
“He was incredibly shy and usually spent his time at home watching TV.
“Now the change in him is just incredible. He’s gone from this quiet guy to being one of the loudest in the class and he’s got the largest group of friends he’s ever had.
“He joins in with the banter in class. It’s great to see and very satisfying for me.
“Seeing the change in people after they’ve attended the classes is just amazing.”
Dale wants to encourage young people to reap the benefits of MMA.
“There isn’t much for kids to do these days, is there?” he said. “Attending MMA classes on a regular basis gives them something positive to do. “It’s a great way for the young people to interact with each other, it boosts their confidence, gives them focus and keeps them disciplined.
“You can see the self esteem and excitement growing with each new move you teach them.”
Not to mention the health benefits which come from taking part.
“Taking part in MMA certainly isn’t boring,” said Dale. “You’re keeping fit and looking after your health without actually realising it.
“One of my clients, Lewis Beattie, and I have been working together for around a year. Lewis and I bonded instantly and both believed that we would get success on his goals through using combat sports and sensible nutrition.
“Lewis has already lost five stone. I’ve been studying nutrition andexperimenting with various plans for years and still feel I haven’t scratched the surface.
“What I do understand is that, no matter what anyone says, everybody is different and changing your daily eating schedule doesn’t have to make you miserable.”
Dale is signed to fight as a pro for the On Top light heavyweight title on May 27 and is also working with others to help them go pro.
“Helping train others and see them progress really is great to see,” added Dale.
“We’ve got guys who are now ready to go pro and will be taking part in fights soon.
“We haven’t been open that long so what we’ve managed to acheive in a short space of time is great.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done and the classes are really busy.
“It’s amazing what a difference and positive outlook on life taking part in MMA can give you.”