Back in July 2019, the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) entered their first ever student from its Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Academy into a boxing bout.

Jan Szponarski, a Level 2 Sports student at CONEL in Enfield, joined the MMA Academy with no previous competitive fighting experience, but after a year and a half of training and hard work, Head Coach Alay Asghar decided he was ready to face an opponent in the octagon for the first time.

Alay Asghar has been in the world of MMA for 14 years, working at CONEL for the last three of those as the MMA Academy’s Head Coach. From competitor to coach, Alay has learnt a lot during his time in the sport. He says, “There is a big misconception that MMA is all about promoting violence and fighting.  However, it is actually a great way to help the students channel their aggression within a controlled environment.” Alay credits the MMA Academy with helping Jan channel his energy and says that it has also “instilled discipline and character into him”.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that allows punching, hitting and grappling – both standing and on the ground – using techniques from different combat sports and martial arts, including boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing, judo, karate and taekwondo. The CONEL MMA Academy currently has 28 students in its programme.


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