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So, I’m walking along Oxford Avenue in Fox Chase one day, admiring the row of stores down the small neighborhood’s main street.
There is a doughnut shop, car wash, McDonald’s, Wawa, Pizza joint, upscale restaurant, MMA Dojo, German market...wait, what was that last one?
Hm. Curious place for a Mixed Martial Arts Academy, don’t ya think?
“Actually, this place is a gold mine,” says Semper Fi MMA Academy Owner, Julio Rosario, an ex-Marine. “A friend of mine majored in business in school, and he said if you can get a place near a McDonald’s you will always have business. People are drawn to McDonald's chains and the stores around. He said they spend something like $1 million on research to figure out where people are and if stores will work there.
“Think about it, do you ever see a closed McDonalds?”
Rosario, 33, came home from his third tour in Iraq and his brother, a Philadelphia Police Officer, wanted to make sure he didn’t go back for a third. So they rented the space together and started their own business.
“It took about $20,000 to get it started,” said Rosario, who grew up in North Jersey. “We started with about four kids and now we have about 62 registered, which includes kids, teens and adults.
“The kids are my best students,” he continued. “A lot kids are being bullied and some can’t handle it and sadly some end up committing suicide. Learning these techniques gives them confidence, this gives them an opportunity to defend themselves.”
Rosario, who trains his students in MMA and jujitsu styles and also fights in matches sanctioned in Atlantic City and Philadelphia, thought about school and becoming a cop after the Marines, but loves what he’s doing now.
“I love teaching the kids,” Rosario says. “I love keeping them here and off the streets where they’re doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing.”
It’s easy to find. Just look for the bright store front with the mats and heavy-bags in the windows. Trust me. You can’t miss it.
By Tom Rowan Jr. and Gail Austin Team 2: NE Philly