Lyndon Whitlock is not just an owner, but also trainer (striking) at Ontario’s Para Bellum MMA. A fighter himself (he’s shared the cage with the likes of Rick Glenn and Gavin Tucker, among others), Whitlock is, like many of us, in a different sort of fight these days. One that involves juggling the need for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, with trying to survive financially in an industry that is about as face-to-face as you can get.
We spoke to Whitlock recently, and he took part in a little COVID-19 Q&A for us.
Obviously there’s widespread instances of COVID-19 affecting MMA Gyms. How have gym operations been altered by the spread of coronavirus?
Altered? It’s a complete shut down! One day it’s business as usual and the next day the business I own, the place I work at and the gym I train at is shut down. This current situation is uncomfortable for a lot of different reasons and the future has never been more uncertain.
Some MMA events have gone on with no live fans in attendance while a multitude of events have been postponed outright. Do you favor one approach over the other here?
I have my opinions but they don’t really matter because you can’t fairly run a closed door event when the athletes can’t train properly, because of Ontario’s law of the essential business only. [Note: Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced earlier this week that only essential business in the province would remain open].
Much is discussed in terms of gyms losing money and being in a vulnerable position in these times. What kind of changes will need to happen to offset that financial uncertainty?
It’s hard to get into this conversation because this situation is so complex. If I had to guess by time the dust settles and we are all allowed to go back to work we will have lost a lot of small businesses, especially in the fitness industry. This is a devastating blow and I hope one day we recognize what we do more as mental health rather then recreation.
COVID-19 Affecting MMA Gyms
How are these rampant event cancellations affecting different competitors within the gym?
We aren’t running any classes right now. Recreational or the pro team. So the event cancellations is affecting them or us as much as the virus and the lockdown.
As a martial arts instructor, what are you able to do to supplement your income with all of his going on?
Nothing. Me and my business partners have been forced to go on EI, which is much less then our regular income. Martial arts is all we know and love. We aren’t good at anything else. We are very lucky to have such a great support system and members around us. This will not be the end of Para Bellum MMA it’s just going to be a heavy emotional and financial blow.
There seems to be a situation where some are not paying gym bills in lieu of not being able to train there while some gym-goers are still paying their monthly fees. We have some of the best members in the world. A lot of them have continued to support the gym through these uncertain time’s. Their generosity will not be forgotten.
Any plans to do live streams and do some form of remote teaching as all of this transpires?
We have no plans to do that as of right now. Truthfully the last few weeks have been so stressful dealing with the logistics of the situation that we haven’t even spoken about it.
With social distancing measures and other COVID-19 behavioral aspects, what can martial artists do at home during this time to keep their skills sharp?
You know it’s a tricky situation because martial arts truly is a team sport. I do believe we all need some form of daily activity to help keep us on track and stay away from the negative things that can accompany isolation such as depression, and addiction. Run, shadowbox, lift weights. Do whatever you can.
Anything you want to add as we wrap up here?
No. I just truly look forward to getting back to all the things I love but I mostly look forward to getting back to work and building our community.