Washington native UFC fighter helps to upgrade community boxing gym

Michael Chiesa, the UFC and Modelo partnered to help renovate Cappy’s Boxing Gym in Seattle.

A Seattle boxing gym known for its inclusiveness and support of veterans is receiving brand new equipment and renovations thanks to a partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Modelo and a Washington native UFC fighter.

Michael Chiesa grew up in Spokane where he wrestled for Shadle Park High School. In 2012, Chiesa won the The Ultimate Fighter competition, a reality show in which a handful of up-and-coming fighters compete against each other for a chance to fight in the UFC.

Since then, he has won 11 fights in the UFC and has lost only 5, ranking as the sixth-best welterweight fighter in the world as of the most recent UFC division rankings.

Now, he’s giving back to the community and helping to improve access to martial arts training and resources, in the hopes that more people will get involved with a sport and a discipline that has given him so much.

Chiesa said Cappy’s Boxing Gym, 2719 E. Union St. in Seattle, will be getting new equipment, heavy bags, a new coat of paint, a mural and other “bells and whistles” to help revitalize and rejuvenate the community gym.

He said gyms like Cappy’s are an important outlet for both physical and mental fitness in the community, welcoming all sorts of folks to train and pick up new disciplines such as boxing.

In his own experience at different gyms, he has seen all sorts of clientele training to better themselves, including people older than age 50 trying to teach themselves something new, people who use training to help themselves recover from addiction, and people like veterans who use the martial arts to both keep themselves in shape and in some cases, to help battle their own post-traumatic stress.

“That’s the beauty, it helps cope with life’s problems,” Chiesa said. Sometimes during his workouts, he enters the gym with stress and personal issues, but leaves feeling like they have been resolved without even having to think about them.

Cappy’s recently launched a program with Minority Veterans of America to offer special classes for veterans focused on health and wellness. They also offer scholarships to cover membership fees, have pay-what-you-can programs, and offer free workouts at public parks.

Chiesa said gyms like Cappy’s are also an important way to promote the martial arts and to cultivate and develop athletes and competitors in the sport. He said UFC and mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world.

“When I was young, I always wanted to be a UFC fighter, but I never had that direction,” Chiesa said. “The youth will flock here, especially if they have dreams like I do.”

Chiesa said community gym like Cappy’s are more than just a venue for individuals to better their own fitness, they represent community and togetherness.

“Cappy’s is a neighborhood staple,” he said. “Something the community can rally behind.”