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Athlete performance center built as the heart of new UFC campus

Fighting promotion prepares for move to new headquarters in May

UFC's Corporate Campus media tour

Mikayla Whitmore

UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein, left, and UFC executives James Kimball and Forrest Griffin address journalists during a media tour of the UFC’s Corporate Campus and Performance Institute at Torrey Pines Drive and Raphael Rivera Way, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017.

UFC Corporate Campus Media Tour

Construction continues on UFC's Corporate Campus and Performance Institute at Torrey Pines Drive and Raphael Rivera Way in Las Vegas on Jan. 18, 2017. Launch slideshow »

A portion of the UFC’s local workforce of 250 people might eat lunch in the company’s cafeteria on any given day with a view of someone like lightweight champion Conor McGregor shadowboxing on the training turf just outside.

From another vantage point, an employee might look up from his or her computer to spy women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes pulling a power sled on an Olympic-style sprint track. Virtually every spot of the UFC’s new corporate office, situated off Jones Boulevard and the 215 Beltway in the southwest valley, comes equipped with sight lines into the campus’ centerpiece — a performance institute for fighters.

“The philosophy behind that was, yes, we’re working in PR, working in events or whatever aspect of the company, but every day, you should be thinking about our product,” said UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein. “That’s going to hopefully inspire all of our employees.”

Exposed wires and pipes dangled from the ceilings above structures of cement and drywall at the 184,000-square-foot property during a media tour Wednesday afternoon. The bones are almost fully in place, with the rest of the body expected to fill out by early May when the staff is scheduled to vacate the old UFC offices off Sahara Avenue near Interstate 15.

It will look like a futuristic entity once construction is completed, according to Epstein’s descriptions and renderings displayed throughout the space.

“Our goals here are simple yet ambitious, and that is to accelerate the evolution of the MMA athlete while also becoming a leader in the sports performance community,” said James Kimball, UFC’s director of athletic development. “We’re going to do that by providing best-in-class holistic performance optimization services for our athletes efficiently all under one roof.”

In layman’s terms, the UFC is making cutting-edge training technology available for free to its roster of nearly 500 fighters. Adjoined to the outdoor workout courtyard on the ground floor will be amenities like a cryotherapy chamber, hydroworx pool, compression and laser-therapy units and all the latest standard fitness equipment.

The upstairs of the performance institute gets sports-specific. One station features technology that can measure variables like power and velocity of strikes.

“Instead of Floyd Mayweather’s guy standing there with a little clicker, we’re going to employ some actual science,” cracked Forrest Griffin, UFC vice president of athlete development and Hall of Famer.

Griffin’s favorite wrinkle is a full-sized octagon with high-definition overhead cameras to record workouts and sparring. Fighters will be able to review sessions immediately on full wall-sized screens right across from the cage.

Next to the octagon is a regulation-sized boxing ring.

“I’ve also heard Conor might need to use this for his big-money fight with Floyd,” Griffin said with a smirk. “If he does, we could be available.”

The institute also contains relaxation rooms, nutrition and rehabilitation centers and areas to host media events. The UFC staff traveled the globe getting ideas for the center, taking particular inspiration from Manchester City Football Club’s headquarters in England.

It spared no expense in bringing it all to life, though it hasn’t revealed the full cost.

“If this thing works out even close to the way we think it’s going to, it will be the greatest investment we’ve ever made,” Epstein said.

Although the center can accommodate up to 200 people at a time, the UFC plans to schedule it out and limit availability to far fewer than that. The hope is that athletes visit for a week or two at a time, taking what they learn back to their home gyms to train more efficiently.

“Another thing we’re committed to do is update,” Griffin said. “So we have the best of the best right now, but in a year, there’s going to be something better, something we didn’t think of that isn’t out there right now, so we’ll get that.”

Griffin coordinated with current fighters to tailor everything to their needs. But he’s confident the technology could just as easily apply to other sports.

A long-term goal is to share the innovation with other athletes who come through Las Vegas, much like how the Detroit Pistons cross-trained with UFC roster members in the summer of 2015.

“Las Vegas is turning into quite the sports town with the NFL possibly on the way and the NHL on the way,” Epstein said. “We feel like this facility is unmatched both in Las Vegas and around the world.”

It’s a big step up from UFC’s old office workout room, which was crammed into a basement hardly the size of the locker rooms on the new campus. Griffin joked that the new gym is so all-encompassing that he might put a cot in his office and never leave.

Epstein is just happy everyone working at the UFC will be so intertwined with the sport.

“Everybody in the office building will look out the window and see the product,” he said. “We’ll be thinking of our mission every day.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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