A Fighting Chance: New program introduces underprivileged Las Vegas high school students to MMA

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 7:50 AM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Inside Syndicate MMA gym in the southwest valley, professional fighters train around the clock, but over the last few months a new crowd of high school students are learning the craft.

“You go one! Two! Left of the body,” professional boxer and coach Shane Mosley Jr. belted towards the introductory class of ‘A Fighting Chance.’

Founder of the program James Murphy said the mission speaks for itself.

“Every kid deserves a chance,” Murphy said. “It kind of just hypothesized everything we’re trying to accomplish here.”

Murphy co-owns the gym and is CEO of the neighboring sports medicine clinic Pro-Am Sports. The idea of the program, ‘A Fighting Chance’, was born out of a desire to level the playing field of life.

“When this came up it’s like an open door opportunity to get into it,” student in the program Joddy Liborio said.

Murphy partnered with the non-profit Project 150 that provides free basic necessities for homeless and disadvantaged high school students in the valley. Now those that are interested are getting a free chance to learn something they probably would never be exposed to otherwise.

“Make sure that every kid no matter what their situation is in life have that path of success,” Murphy said.

Ten students graduated through the first 90-day class. They train two days a week and are now learning more advanced skills like jujitsu.

The students are taught by the pros including Mosley Jr. and UFC fighters Jerry and Shane Shapiro.

“They pick up things pretty quick,” Shane Shapiro said. “I show them pretty high-level moves - black belt level moves and they’re doing well man. It’s crazy.”

“It kind of helps you with growing your mind a little bit,” high school senior Gael Tovar said. “So it keeps your mind open to things and being aware.”

Tovar said a few months into the program has already changed him as a person.

“More confident in myself, and if anyone tries to mess with me I’m more calm,” Tovar said. “That’s what I’m talking about with the mental aspect kind of relaxes you so you’re not stressing or worrying about anyone else.”

Ten more high school kids are few weeks in to learning the basics, like striking and grappling.

“What we want to show them is that you can enjoy the process too. It’s not all about the goal. It’s about how you conduct yourself during the process, the discipline, the focus and the confidence that you learn in doing that process,” Murphy said. “You can then take that and apply it to going to college or finding a job or getting ahead in life, first house, etc. It doesn’t happen overnight. Even if it’s just them having experience that they can look back on in life and say, well, even during a really tough time in my life, it was cared about, hopefully, some hope.”

It’s a fighting chance that every one deserves.

The program is looking to add more students. Any high school students that are apart of Project 150 are eligible. Murphy hopes to add another location to make it easier for kids across the valley to get to.