UFC has partnered with OnSide, one of the leading youth charities in the U.K, to establish a youth mentoring program at three OnSide Youth Zone locations including South London (Croydon), The Way Youth Zone in the Midlands (Wolverhampton) and The Hive Youth Zone in the Northwest (Wirral).
“[This partnership] is all about engaging with young people in a positive way and to do something different,” Chief Executive of Legacy Youth Zone Barnabas Shelbourne said. “Using [mixed martial arts] is a really good platform to do that. [We] build relationships with them, get them to learn great skills, discipline, commitment.”
This partnership works in tandem with local law enforcement in all three cities, aiming to break down the barriers between kids and the police.
“We just want to get these kids out of the streets, divert them away from crime, and just let them know they can talk to us, they can confide in us and they can come have fun,” PC Dean Littlewood from South Area Command Unit in the Metropolitan Police Service said.
These programs were developed with the help of UFC welterweight title challenger Leon Edwards, UFC middleweight Darren Till and former UFC light heavyweight Jimi Manuwa, who have worked on kickstarting this partnership for the last three years. Together, these three athletes will lead martial arts focused mentoring programs as part of the after-school health and wellness curriculum at the three Youth Zone locations.
“At the end of the day, you’re fighting, but it’s all love,” Edwards said. “We’re here to provide for our family and just give back.”
Thanks to @UFCEurope and @Leon_edwardsmma for agreeing to work with @MPSCroydon @MPSSutton @MPSBromley helping our local youth with mentoring and support, promoting brighter futures. Thanks to @LegacyYZ for being a key partner in this work. pic.twitter.com/rnKUuH2NI4— Supt Andy Brittain (@MPSAndyBrittain) March 17, 2022
Kids aged 12-16 are eligible to join the program which includes weekly, small-group classes over a 6–8 week period. The classes will offer kids with the opportunity to learn various martial arts disciplines, including boxing, kickboxing, muay Thai, wrestling, judo and jiu-jitsu. Classes will accommodate all levels of mixed martial artists.
These programs are offered year-round and will be open after school hours to provide students with a safe space to develop a wide range of key skills to support their physical and mental health, focusing on improving cognitive function, muscle strength, balance, coordination, enhanced flexibility and better self-awareness.
To learn more about OnSide, visit www.onsideyouthzones.org/projects/ufc-onside-programme/.