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Turlock's Mixed Martial Arts gym boasts pro fighters; open to all
Professional fighter David Rivera-Cruz (145) teaches a group of young kids how to maintain core strength at the Turlock Academy of Martial Arts. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

Turlock Academy of Martial Arts is the only Mixed Martial Arts gym in the town of Turlock and owner and black belt instructor Derrick Williams is on a mission to assist the local talent in a unique sport that teaches more than just self-defense and discipline.

“I am the only MMA fighting gym in Turlock,” said Williams. “Ultimate goal is to pass on what I learned, I had one teacher tell me not to be selfish. Teach it, pass it on to the next generation. This is how the martial arts have been going on for so long, it’s been taught and handed down.”

With a wealth of knowledge that he has accumulated over his career, Williams has trained outside the country for over six years in Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu, among a variety of components that make a well-rounded MMA practitioner.

His resume speaks for itself, and it all started when he was just 15 years old.

“There was nothing else to do around here in Turlock when I moved in ‘94,” said Williams. “But luckily, the karate school where I started was right down the street from my house so that is why I started going there…it helped keep me out of trouble.”

After graduating from Modesto High in 1999, he was a blue belt in Kenpo and less than three years later he earned his brown belt just before signing up for the Navy in 2002.

“I finished in 2006, but stayed in Japan for two more years and taught English and trained near the base for mostly Muay Thai but they did have a few MMA fighters out there,” said Williams.

From there he came back home studied sports medicine at Modesto Junior College and eventually earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business, which helped him in opening his own gym in 2014.

Since then Williams has had the pleasure of teaching many students, including some professionals, but his classes are for ages four and up of all ability levels.

Williams has also fought on multiple occasions, but is slowly transitioning to be solely a coach.

“I want to be that guy that is walking with a cane stick around 90 still yelling at his fighters,” Williams said.

Williams reached his Kenpo black belt in 2015, and has since been able to assist his students on a different scale.

His professional fighters include James Kirby (HWY) and David Rivera-Cruz (145) who currently have fought for Dragon House, a MMA promotion out of San Francisco.

He also trains three fighters on the amateur circuit — Eddie Leyva, Miguel Alveris and No Limit Amateur Middleweight Champion Joseph Cardoso.

But he knows that the youth is where the future lies and hopes to continue building on that within the community as the sport continues to gain popularity around the globe.

“I am not doing it as a social club, it's a martial arts gym. Come here to learn, train and better yourself,” said Williams.


Williams said a summer kids program will start June 5. For more information about Turlock Academy of Martial Arts, call 209-408-7126.