MMA Coach Jason Manly's Private SoCal Garage

Fightland Blog

By Aaron Nardi

Jason Manly is one of the best jiu jitsu teachers I’ve been lucky enough to meet. Jason flies just under the radar but within the last few years has become a very sought after MMA coach. Recently, Jason left his position as head coach at Reign Training Center to train an impressive stable of fighters from his home.

When he first told me about his plan to take fighters out of the crowded gym atmosphere and into his garage, I thought he was crazy. But then I saw his house and it all started to make sense.

We visited Jason at his beautiful home in Newport’s back bay to check it all out. His simple and clean style paired with the huge vaulted ceilings make his “garage” on par with just about any MMA gym imaginable. 

Fightland: How did you get into coaching?
I started training martial arts in 2nd grade. I did everything from karate and kickboxing to judo, sambo, and ninjitsu before settling into jiu jitsu as my preferred art in the late 90s. I became the fifth fighter in the world ever to receive a black belt from Cesar Gracie (the other four have all fought for the UFC title).

Why Newport Beach?
I'm a SoCal guy at heart. I love the beach, laying by the pool, and feeling the warmth of the sun. Beachside Orange County is paradise. Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach… everyday is vacation here. 

You just moved into this… immaculate home. What's going on here?
Lots of good things are going on here. I live here, I work here, and I train here. I couldn't ask for a better situation. I wake up in the morning and go for a swim, surf, or a run in the back bay. Then do some work on the computer and train with my athletes. I'm five minutes from the beach and some of the best dining in OC. Life is great. God is good!

You've taught Cesar Gracie's Gracie Fighter Academy and head coach at Reign Training Center. What made you decide to take work home with you?
I've always been a big proponent of building your life around the things that make you happy. Jiu jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts are definitely those types of things for me, but if I was waking up and driving down to the gym for for hours everyday, or driving back and forth.

Eventually I think I’d end up just going through the motions. So I had to do it on my own terms. The way my fighters and I are happier and training is more enjoyable for us.

In order for us to get better we have to train more, focus more, and work harder. So I had to commit to being available to train multiple fighters whenever they need me and that's difficult to accomplish in a regular gym environment. I'm not going to have the energy to go to the gym three or four times a day on top of the regularly scheduled practice, and they won't either. It may work for a while but eventually your passion and enthusiasm will fade and it will show in your art.

At my house when those same fighters come and train they treat it like their own home. We relax and train and enjoy the journey together, it creates a completely different dynamic. The gym becomes a more exciting and fun experience, not a chore. We can hang at the beach or swim in the pool, enjoy the beauty of the bay and the running trails. Everybody wants a gym that feels like home... this one actually is home.

Who are you training here?
I've got so many hard workers in here. I've got Uriah Hall training, Kelvin Gastelum came and trained for his up coming fight against Jake Ellenberger. Jake is a good friend of mine and he came by and hung out for a bit after Kelvin left (laughts). On a daily basis we have Rachael Cummins, Kailin Curran, Marina Shafir, Leslie Smith, Brett Cooper training for his main event coming up, as well as Jay Silva who will be fighting on that same KSW card in Poland next month. Some of the original Gracie Fighter crew like Jake Shields and Nick Diaz should be heading down soon at well.

Now that you have the new house and gym running what's next for Jason Manly?
The plan is simply to push everyone that walks through that door to become the very best version of themselves in both sport and life. To exceed all expectations and to use and multiply every ounce of talent God has given them while they are on this earth. It is a simple but a wonderfully challenging task and as we say around here, ‘If God Be For Us Who Can Be Against Us?


Check out these related stories:

Kicking It with Kailin Curran

Rachael Cummins: SoCal's New WMMA Fighter

Japan's MMA Roots: An Interview with Rumina Sato