When Jeff Bedard received a voicemail from Robert Findley during the winter about the possibility of opening a training gym he ignored the call.
Bedard was in the middle of training for his upcoming mixed martial arts fight and never thought much about the message.
"When I'm doing that I'm kind of in a zone," Bedard said.
"He didn't return me right away. I had to leave sort of a nasty message and got his attention," Findley said.
The two eventually met and in April opened Elite Training Center in Buford, a do-it-all gym for wrestling, MMA, cardio classes and personal training.
"What separates us is we offer a lot of basic fitness classes where you learn how to defend yourself and get in shape doing it," Bedard said. "The biggest thing is it's a family environment."
Bedard brings a wealth of experience in athletic training. He spent the last two seasons as a wrestling assistant coach at Collins Hill, helping the Eagles to back-to-back state championships. Prior to that, he spent three years as the head coach at Wesleyan. He has seven years experience as an MMA fighter and holds the welterweight Palace Fighting Championship belt.
And that's just his accomplishments this decade. A three-time state champion wrestler in high school, Bedard wrestled and coached at the college level and at the national level.
So when Findley was looking for a partner to start the gym it was a no-brainer to ask Bedard.
"With Jeff's wrestling background that he's had throughout the years, it's second to none to anybody throughout the state," Findley said.
Findley, a 2002 Duluth grad, was involved with football, baseball and wrestling as a kid. He worked at a gym while in college, but it was when he started coaching youth football that he got the itch open a gym. With Bedard's career in MMA winding down, it made for a natural fit for the two to work together.
"Once I got toward the end of my career in fighting I always wanted to open my own gym," Bedard said. "Meeting Robert and sitting down to discuss some things it was perfect for both of us."
Elite Training Center offers wrestling, MMA, jujitsu, Muy Thai, boot camps, cardio kick boxing and personal training for men and women from kids to adults.
"This is for everyone. It's a family atmosphere," Bedard said. "The classes we're doing for wrestling will be hard and intense. MMA classes are geared for fitness and how to defend yourself and learn how to strike, submissions and wrestle and you go as hard as you want to go. It's for kids all the way up to moms and dads."
The business partners think their style of training sets Elite Training Center apart from nationwide chain gyms.
"We use a little bit different techniques than just a gym. We don't throw somebody on a machine and say give me two sets of 10. It's a little bit different," Findley said.
A training session at Elite could range from punching and kicking to climbing ropes and ladder drills to flipping tires and hitting them with a sledge hammer.
"It's the Rocky in a barn type stuff," Findley said. "It's something different, but it's simple. You can get some of the best workouts in the simplest ways."
Elite has been open for three months and has gradually seen its membership grow. Bedard and Findley are expecting a major increase during the wrestling season, but hope to generate a well-rounded group of clients.
"Wrestling will be our bread and butter for a few months of the year, but it's not just a wrestling gym," Bedard said. "That's what's going to separate us. You can learn self defense, fitness classes, the whole nine yards."
What: Elite Training Center
Where: 5153 Belle Wood Court, Buford
Web site: www.EliteTrainingCenterATL.com
· Gym is operated by former wrestling coach and MMA fighter Jeff Bedard and Duluth grad Robert Findley
· Offers classes in wrestling, mixed martial arts, cardio kick boxing, self defense and personal training