Training for Transformation

Veteran trainer George Castro talks about strength and conditioning, and plans of the Alliance gym materializing

A towering man comes out with soft tacos meant for Flying House’s Taco Tuesday and serves it on the table. He says it’s his mom’s recipe from Mexico. He tells us there are particular ingredients like specific peppers that he can’t find here in the Philippines, but he improvises nonetheless with local hauls. Whatever he uses, these homemade tacos are reminiscent of his home.

Mexican-American George Castro hails from Tucson, Arizona, where he made his name in the dynamic world of mixed martial arts. After a successful run at Alliance MMA gym in San Diego, California, the former MMA professional and present fight/strength and conditioning coach found his way to the Philippines.

Having trained professional fighters Jeremy Stephens, Ross Pearson, and the like, he then met current One FC Heavyweight Champion Brandon Vera also through Alliance MMA and has been friends with him ever since. It was Castro’s dedication as a strength and conditioning coach that paved the way to his stint in the Philippines. “Brandon called me and asked me to train him in the Philippines,” Castro said. The veteran trainer saw the potential in the offer, especially with the Philippines’ emerging talent and despite having to leave family and friends.

Now, as Brandon Vera’s head coach and close friend, Castro’s dreams of opening a Filipino branch of Alliance MMA in Metro Manila are finally materializing. Recently having been offered a partnership in the Pop Up, the container van mall along Katipunan, Castro tells us that the Alliance Training Center will not only focus on fight training, but on strength and conditioning as well. He explains plans of a three-storey building that will go alongside a membership tier. The training center is expected to have a gym on the first floor, a mixed martial arts training area on the second level, and a pool and a cage also meant for amateur nights and even some One FC events in the future. Castro also plans to bring in a cryotherapy center as part of the facilities for physical therapy and rehabilitation, creating a “one-stop facility” for every athletic need.

While the gym is meant to act as a training center for fighters, it is also meant to introduce MMA to a wider market. Apart from beginner classes, Castro is also adamant on offering classes to kids as young as five years old. “In the US, kids’ classes involve the parents and it becomes a family environment.” It also becomes an anti-bullying tactic by endowing confidence in the child at a young age, not to take the offensive (or start fights) but as a means to discipline oneself (and have the basic know-how of self-defense).

Castro also tells us how impressed he is with Filipino fighters, with their drive and motivation. And by bringing Alliance MMA training here, he wants to create opportunities for fighters, athletes, coaches, and even street children, like he did back home through a sponsorship program for the dedicated kids who needed it the most. Castro wants to bring the quality of training of Alliance MMA here to the Philippines and elevate it.

“I want to bring our style, our knowledge of the training here for athletes and coaches.” As a coach, even Castro himself is constantly evolving, learning from other coaches and athletes. “You can learn from anybody. You always have to evolve. If I’m not elevating that as a coach, then I can’t elevate that to my athletes.”

The Alliance Training Center is meant to be professional in every aspect, including structured programs and rotating coaches from different teams and countries to deepen and spread the knowledge. And although Alliance is a known team, the gym is not exclusive to its fighters. “We’re not going to tell you not to train with that person or restrict a fighter to just us. But when they don’t know or need help, we have a lot of resources. And we can also outsource knowledge,” says Castro.

The future gym will be much like Castro’s own training style: it is training for every sport, not limited to MMA. As a trainer, Castro pushes a strength and conditioning program that’s meant to improve the overall performance of the body in a particular sport. But even if it’s just to get more fit and feel better, more motivated to live a healthier and more athletic lifestyle, Castro tells us he does that too. Coaching nowadays is all about teaching self-control, self-discipline, and respect for others. It’s about helping clients feel better about themselves, and ultimately going through a transformation that isn’t limited to the physical sense, but a holistic change in general.

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Bea Celdran

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