When Sayif Saud was picking a name for his gym in Dallas, TX he wanted to pick a word that indicated exactly what his gym would stand for. And after much though, Saud decided to choose the Latin term “fortis,” which translates to “strong.”
He wanted to build a roster of fighters that would all buy in to a team-first mentality. He wanted to create a facility that provided athletes with all the equipment they need to succeed. And he wanted to surround each athlete with coaches that he trusted and knew would build one of the best teams in mixed martial arts.
Fortis MMA would go on to open in 2017, with no UFC fighters on the roster. Fast forward to today, Fortis currently is home to 12 UFC athletes. With numbers like that, it’s evident that Saud’s vision and expectations were spot on.
But according to Saud, Fortis is just getting started.
“Perception is reality,” Saud said. “We know where we are. We know what we need to do and we know where we need to go. And there’s tons of work to do.”
Athletes on Fortis’ roster include the likes of undefeated light heavyweight Alonzo Menifield, The Ultimate Fighter 28 winner and undefeated bantamweight Macy Chiasson, lightweight Diego Ferreira, light heavyweight prospect Ryan Spann and welterweight up and comer Geoff Neal.
On Saturday, Neal will be taking on Niko Price on the PPV portion of UFC 240. Neal’s rise is just more evidence that Fortis is starting to get the notoriety that it deserves.
And while it’s great that some of his fighters are starting to get attention, Saud believes that if his athletes just focus on putting in the hard work and dedication, the rest will take care of itself.
“Hard work always pays off. It’s always good for you in some way, shape or form,” Saud said. “That’s what the gym has been built off of. It’s all about action and accountability. If you’re at every practice, if you’re at every strength session, if you’re at every technical session, you’re increasing your chances of success exponentially and that’s what ends up happening. I think that’s just really the culture of the gym.”
Saud’s mentality translates directly to his fighters as their no-nonsense, “we’ll make noise by winning” laser focus manifests itself in each grueling practice and impressive victory.
That commitment to excellence and that bond between coach and athlete is tough to find, but not at Fortis. It’s present during each practice, each strength and conditioning session, and each trip to the Octagon.
“Coach Sayif is more than a coach,” UFC welterweight Alex Morono said. “He’s our general, he’s a father figure, and I’d fight to the death for that man. I’m glad I have such a strong allegiance and partner in Coach Sayif.”
Both Menifield and Chiasson echoed Morono’s statements about Fortis’ leader.
“He’s a father figure, he’s a mentor and he’s all those figures that are positive,” Menifield said. “We all have that respect for him. We have mad love and respect for him. When he’s yelling and people don’t understand why, it’s because it’s his deep passion to see us succeed for our careers and for our families."
“I trust Sayif with everything, and since Day One he has not let me down,” Chiasson said. “I think it’s just his personality and his mentality that clicks with me so well.”
Also adding to the quality of Fortis is the diverse range of talents that can be found in the building at any point in time. Over 50 athletes train at Fortis on a weekly basis, many of which are homegrown athletes fighting out of the Lone Star state.
Morono went from running his own gym full-time in Houston to switching to Fortis for fight camps. Ferreira is from South Texas, Spann is from Beaumont and Neal moved to Dallas from Killeen. All these fighters have come together to chase the same goals under one roof.
Speaking of that roof, what’s just as impressive as the roster is the facility itself.
Coming in at 7,000 sq ft, the three-story headquarters for Fortis features a full-scale bag stand, a mat area for jiu-jitsu, a cage-covered wall, cardio equipment, locker rooms, a kitchen, a weight room, an outside rooftop area and a place to work on your putting game.
“It’s like a house in here,” Neal laughed. “Most gyms have just an open area where you can see all the gym has to offer. Here, you have a room for jiu-jitsu, a room for striking, an upstairs to work on your strength, and on the roof you can play golf.”
Spann feels the same way about the Fortis’ resources.
“We have everything we need here,” Spann said. “Everything in Fortis allows me to make it a one-stop shop.”
Saud has plans to open another two buildings close to Fortis, one that would operate as housing for fighters and their families, and one that would be an additional workout facility.
Strength and conditioning is another huge contributor to the success of Fortis, as all UFC fighters are required to attend training sessions at Extreme Studio Performance as a team in Dallas. The regimen is created and operated by Mike Scaccia, who works closely with Saud to create schedules that best benefit the team’s athletes.
The combination of these resources, the right coaches and the right athletes is a big reason that Fortis has progressed so much in just two and a half years.
And starting with Neal at UFC 240, Fortis has plenty of athletes that will be in the spotlight in the coming months.
Steven Nguyen hopes to impress UFC brass on the Contender Series on July 30, Ferreira will face Mairbek “Beckan” Taisumov at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi, Miles Johns will make his UFC debut in Vancouver on September 14 against Cole Smith, and Chiasson will be back in action in September as well.
In addition, Spann, Morono, Charles Byrd and Kennedy Nzechukwu are hoping to get fights booked in the near future.
“We’re not in a hurry,” Saud said. “We’re going to fight whoever we need to fight and we’re going to beat whoever we need to beat.”
Fortis might not be quite where Saud wants it to be, but as long as the team continues to believe in themselves and trust Saud’s vision, the chances that they will get there are strong.
Gavin Porter is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @PorterUFCNews