Straight Blastin' in Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Straight Blastin' in Bend

Bend's newest MMA gym packs a punch, and is part of an international organization of fighting gyms

Straight Blast Gym is Bend's newest mixed martial arts gym, offering classes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai and more under the SBG banner, which has locations in over a dozen states, is in eight countries and has trained high-profile fighters including Connor McGregor. Brian Heenan, SBG Bend's owner and head instructor, started the gym after COVID restrictions lifted and has since attracted over 100 students to his location in downtown Bend.

click to enlarge Straight Blastin' in Bend
Jack Harvel
Brian Heenan showing his MMA fighting skills.

"It wasn't until I talked to a couple of the black belts in our organization, one being John Kavanaugh, who is Conor McGregor's coach, and another one being John Frankel. And they gave me the confidence to be able to do go and pursue my goal," Heenan said.

Heenan teaches over 40 classes a week on striking, jiu jitsu and wrestling — including some kids classes and women's classes. When I gave it a go, I tried a striking class attended by three other students. Let's be clear that I'm in bad shape — over the past three years my sole fitness outlet has been the occasional hike. And though the class was designed for beginners and likely wouldn't be as intense for someone in good health, I still got absolutely wrecked.

SBG's space on the third story of the Franklin Crossing building in downtown Bend is filled with exercise equipment. One area has weightlifting equipment, another has spaces for treadmill. A heavy bag, wrecking ball bag, reaction bag and speed bag sit in a corner, but my class was done entirely on the mat. The class was just the fundamentals, focusing on maintaining a proper boxing stance while moving and practicing a basic jab-straight combination with a partner holding pads.

Simply maintaining a boxing stance for the better part of an hour gave me a week-long limp, and the constant pivoting during pad work and shadow boxing tore a bit of skin off my foot. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I puked around 45 minutes in. Puking and bleeding on your first day is tough, but it's also great exercise and I enjoyed it enough that I've since signed up to be a member. There's a long way to go, but it'll be with other people who are also learning the ropes at the new gym.

"I have like 100 white belts and three blue belts," Heenan said. "I have one guy that was a national champion of wrestling and have a bunch of college wrestlers, but other than that it's people with no experience. I actually prefer that; you get a brand-new beginner, those are the people that I can help the most, the less athletic people, people that maybe haven't done anything physical since high school."

My experience was just scratching the surface at SBG. There's also wrestling, jiu jitsu and even yoga classes I haven't experienced. Heenan teaches many of them but is bringing in more people as the gym grows. The schedule is centered around core classes Heenan teaches and is peppered with other coaches who are specialists in certain martial arts. All these aspects are vital for a well-rounded mixed martial artist, though most people entering the gym aren't looking to compete.

"Most of the people that come in, they come in for self-defense, which really, in all honesty means self-confidence. Because that's the real key to keeping yourself safe generally, is just some good awareness and having the confidence," Heenan said. "I'm not even looking at giving people the opportunity to take fights yet. I want them to have at least a blue belt. I want them to be able to keep themselves safe."

Though that's the case now there will be some avenues to compete in the future. The gym has a competitive jiu jitsu team and Heenan plans to work with other SBG coaches around the country to host camps.

Straight Blast Gym
550 NW Franklin Ave., Suite 338, Bend

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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