“We’re not just gonna do the physical aspect of it. We’re also gonna teach them things that will help them in their life.”
Many of you reading this may or may not be familiar with the name, Coach D Jo Jones, but I can just about guarantee that you’re already very familiar with her body of work in the world of Mixed Martial Arts.
Coach Jones is best known in many MMA circles for having been the “Secret Weapon” behind the training and conditioning work for many of the highly successful fighters that have all come out of Jackson-Winklejohn’s MMA gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Specifically, Coach Jones has worked with many well-known fighters, such as UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Jonny “Bones” Jones, Clay “The Carpenter” Guida, Diego “The Dream” Sanchez, Melvin “The Young Assassin” Guillard, and many others—all of whom are best known for their endless supply of cardiovascular stamina and overall superior conditioning.
Now, with the help from her friends and “family,” Coach Jones is finally moving into the next successful chapter of her life, as she recently opened her very own facility—Momma D’s Dungeon.
It was my pleasure to speak with the Coach about this big change in her life, and I sincerely hope that you enjoy our interview. I know I did. Cheers.
James Ryan: Hi Coach.
Coach D Jo Jones: Hey James! How are you?
JR: I’m doing great! How are you?
DJ: Doing great!
JR: That’s awesome! Glad I was able to catch you at a good time. Congratulations on opening your own place.
DJ: Thank you.
JR: I’ve got a million questions to ask about it, but first, why don’t you start off by maybe telling the readers a little bit about it—where is it? And what is it exactly that you’ll be specializing in?
DJ: Well actually, it’s right next door to Jackson-Winklejohn’s MMA here in New Mexico.
JR: Right next door?
DJ: Yes, it’s right next door to Jackson’s, and what we do is, we specialize in—our biggest thing is that we’re going to focus on kids with a new youth program. Because the thing is, we want to help—not just within the four walls of our building, but also we want to reach out to the community, because we want to help to keep a lot of these kids off of the streets. So I have a Youth Activity Director, Coach Nick Gonzalez, and he’s gonna be working with the kids. We’ve only been open for a week so far, and yesterday for example, the place was full all day.
JR: Wow, that’s awesome.
DJ: What we’re doing is, we’re working with the kids, but I still work with the fighters as well. They come over to me and I do my one-of-a-kind training and recovery treatments. Plus, we have a Chiropractor here, Dr. Robert Smith, who works here a couple days a week, and we have a Sports Massage Therapist, Amber Bryant, who will also be working with people. I’m also looking to reach out to other businesses such as, John Brooks the Supermarket, and Wal-Mart, to see if they would like to participate in what we’re doing.
Because what we’re gonna do is, we’re going to have donations that we can actually raffle off for the kids, so that when they do a grappling tournament, we’ll make them earn the money—I’m gonna start a completely different account, where the kids can actually—when they go to grappling tournaments, it’ll be paid for. The parents and the kids will have their expenses and rooms and everything paid for. But we’re gonna make the kids work for it and make them earn it.
JR: Wow, that sounds awesome. So these kids programs revolve around grappling? They’re not just kids coming to do conditioning training?
DJ: Right. There’s going to be a little bit of everything. There will be grappling, but also we have a guy who is a Muay Thai specialist. He’s actually from another country—Turkey I think—he can hardly speak English, but he likes what we’re doing and he’s actually going to be volunteering his time to help us. Plus, we’ll be doing kickboxing.
The kids also play “Dungeon Ball,” which is another fun way of getting exercise. We’re gonna have cook-outs—not this Sunday, but the following Sunday, we’re gonna have a cook-out and invite everybody from the neighbourhood. That way, they can see first-hand what we’re all about. I also give a 10-percent discount to military, civil servants, senior citizens and college students.
JR: Very nice. So I’m curious about the relationship with Jackson’s. I mean, I know that you’ve been a Coach and Trainer there for a long time, and so I’m sure that this is the next level for you in terms of your dream of getting out and branching off on your own—I just found it interesting however, that you’re literally right next door to them. What is your relationship with them now that you’re out on your own? Are they referring people to you, or is this completely independent?
DJ: Well actually, it’s independent, and what I did and what’s interesting is, the guys—Diego Sanchez was the one who first gave me the name “Momma D.” He’s the one who started calling me that, so that was already there. Then, I had been doing some stuff out of the basement of my apartment, which was like a downstairs, so then Clay Guida was coming in one day, and one of the other fighters who was leaving said, “Well, it’s time to go to the Dungeon,” so we started calling it “Momma D’s Dungeon.” So basically, I had already started doing that, and this was last year at around the end of October.
DJ: And then one day, I was actually working with one of the fighters and he asked, “Did you know that the building right next door to Jackson’s is for rent?” And I hadn’t even thought about that. That wasn’t even a thought in my mind, because I had never—honestly, I used to have a personal training business and a fitness business in New Jersey and New York for about 10 years, but when I moved out here in 2001—the only reason why I stopped doing that was because I moved. And at the time, it was very successful.
I then came out here, but I never wanted to have my own building. That was never a dream of mine, because I just felt that it would be too confining for me. I like to move around.
But you see, the thing is, as soon as he said that, for some reason, it just felt right. I came down, took the number off of the door, and immediately called. It turned out that the owner lived in Texas and the building was her father’s. He passed away and before I leased it, a woodworker used this space—it’s like an unfinished warehouse. But I’ve turned it into an actual Wellness Centre with a reception area, an office and the whole thing. She ended up coming here to meet with me, we negotiated the whole deal, and I got the key on January the 5th. Then, on my birthday, January 26th, we opened the doors.
JR: Wow. That’s a pretty fast turnaround.
DJ: It was, and three weeks after—we worked almost around the clock—between me and the fighters. Because everyone that I work with, like I said, I’m doing the same thing that I did over there at Jackson’s, it’s just that now I’m able to grow and do other things because I’m not limited with what I can do in there, because now I can use my creativity and my 27 years of experience.
And the Youth Program Director—Coach Nick is just awesome with the kids, and he had stopped working over there too. He’s the one who told me about the facility, so this is an opportunity for him to get back with all of the parents and the kids who he was already working with, and they’re just coming here now.
So basically, I’m just doing everything that still supports whatever they’re doing over there. I’m just doing it over here now, and pretty much doing it now under my own rules. So as a matter of fact, they have no problem with me working with the fighters—they have no issue with that at all. It’s just that now, I’m doing it next door. So what I do is, they come over and they work with me or the other coach, and they do conditioning, stretching, and recover treatments. Also, the Chiropractor is subleasing from me. The fighters are next door and they love the fact that now that they can just come next door and work with him instead of going to his office downtown.
DJ: Because he has an office downtown, and a lot of the guys from out of town don’t have transportation. So now they can walk right next door. So basically, it’s just like a support system for what they’re doing over there, and we’re just doing the same thing, just right next door.
JR: Right, wow, and obviously that’s very convenient for a lot of the fighters.
JR: Have you personally talked to Greg Jackson? How does he feel about this?
DJ: They have no problem with it at all—him or Wink—they have no issue with what I’m doing whatsoever. In fact, they wished me all the luck in the world.
JR: That’s awesome. So they don’t see your business as something that’s competing, as much as it’s just something that’s complimenting what they’re currently doing.
DJ: You got it, because the thing is, what I was doing with them was “unduplicatable.”
In other words, what I’m doing now is the same thing that I was doing for them. So it’s not like they could even—it wouldn’t even be something that they can create, or else it would be an issue with something that they would be doing over there because then I’d be competing with them. All the things that I do are my own original design.
So the thing is—it’s just something I’m doing now under my own roof. And I’ve signed a five-year lease and I’ve taken over the bigger part of the building—the total square footage of the building is 5,600 sq-ft. I have 2,910 sq-ft right now because I didn’t want to take on more than I could handle right off the bat, but the landlord put it in my lease that when we outgrow this part, we can then take over the entire building. So we’ll have that whole 5,600 sq-ft—one half will just be all mats, and on the other side will be equipment.
JR: That’s awesome.
DJ: And for the kids, I have fighters like Diego Sanchez in here every single day. Diego is in here every day, sometimes two or four times a day, to work with me because he’s getting ready for a fight on the 15th. He already had the UFC in here filming me working with him last week and we’re supposed to be on Fuel TV on Sunday.
So the fighters—I’ve talked with them, and they said that they would come in, two or three guys at a time, to visit and talk to the kids about real life stuff—the fact that they’re where they are now, but also the struggles and the things that they had to deal with as kids.
And like I said, we’re opening it up to work with the general population. I will still continue to work with the fighters, but basically this is the Dungeon family, so anyone who is going to be in here, is going to be considered a part of the family. If someone joins but they don’t come back for a while, I’m going to do follow-up calls every month. Let’s say for example that something happened—we’ll ask what we can do to help them—things like that.
So that’s what we’re doing here. We want to make a difference.
JR: Sounds great, Coach. It also sounds like you’ve taken on an awful lot for yourself though. What sort of toll is this transition taking on you? Are you getting any sleep? [Laughs]
DJ: Oh no! No, I don’t. [Laughs] Actually, the three days before we opened, I literally got three hours of sleep in the three days.
JR: Holy smokes.
DJ: But the thing is—when I ran my other businesses—like I said, I actually had 40 clients by myself. I rode 300 miles a day all over New York, New Jersey and the Tri-State area, training people in their homes and in their offices. In one year, I would put 50,000 miles on my car and another 40,000 miles on my motorcycle.
JR: Wow. That’s a busy schedule.
DJ: So what I’m doing now is—I still ride because I wear test for Helmet House, the motorcycle gear company. And so what I’ll do now is that since I have the coach on some weekends, like if he’s here doing his thing, I can have some time now to go riding on Sundays and do a thousand miles because that’s what I like to do. Take one day—blow out a thousand miles, and then come back and kick some ass on Monday.
JR: [Laughs] That’s awesome. So at least you’re able to take some time off for yourself?
DJ: Oh yea, most definitely.
JR: Well that’s good. So Coach, how would you summarize your main goal?
DJ: Our main goal is to really make a difference in the community. It’s not about the money, because I mean, we’re gonna have our bills paid—that’s gonna happen, but it’s about really making a difference—when I hear the laughter and see these kids out here—they are literally having such a good time in here, and the parents are smiling. I literally got chills the other day when I came out of my office.
JR: Sounds like you’re onto something really great here. I really admire what you’re doing, especially for the kids, and I wish you all the best.
DJ: Thank you so much, James.
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