Business Launch Podcast
Story of Perseverance with Alex Carioti - Carioti MMA
October 16, 2022
Alex shares his story of perseverance with starting his thriving MMA gym, Carioti MMA.
Alex Carioti from Carioti MMA.

[00:00:00] Carlo Selorio: Hey, welcome to the Business Launch Podcast. Thank you once again for coming to our show. I'm here with one of the up and coming business owners who's grinded in the fitness industry. He owns Carioti mma, and we welcome Alex here with us today. Yeah. Okay. 

[00:00:24] Alex Carioti: Thanks for having me. 

[00:00:25] Carlo Selorio: Alex tell us how you how you got started in the martial arts industry.

[00:00:32] Yeah, so I think I started pretty much like majority of people start, we start as athletes first. So I've been training since I was five. Mom put me in I've trained consistently all the way up to, I got basically to a point with my career where I was gonna decide if I was gonna make a big push towards being a professional athlete or a push towards being a gym owner.

[00:00:54] And I. The earlier I get onto coaching, the better chance I have of success with it, where fighting is [00:01:00] a not really many guarantees. Yeah. And it seemed like a bit of a dro and I realized I like coaching more than I like competing. So yeah, I actually made the turn. 

[00:01:09] I'm exactly the same actually box around about 15 years, but, Didn't end up jumping in the gym fighting because I enjoyed training as well.

[00:01:18] Yeah. And I enjoyed training people at the time. So what age were you when you decided that you were gonna go pursue the mma? 

[00:01:31] Alex Carioti: So as, so I didn't get to inate myself as an athlete till about 21. And then as I switched towards, starting to think of myself as a coach by my mid 20. So I opened up the gym around 25, 26.

[00:01:47] Cause I realized, like I said, I felt at that age I'm still quite young. And I can. If I put my head to it, I could achieve quite a bit by the time I'd reached my primes. But I think 20 mid twenties is that pivotal [00:02:00] time. As an athlete, we are gonna decide, am I gonna push into my thirties and chase this hard or am I gonna make a career for myself?

[00:02:06] So it felt like it was about the right time. 

[00:02:09] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. That's awesome. What disciplines did you first start with when you 

[00:02:14] Alex Carioti: So TaeKwonDo first I got my black belt in TaeKwonDo, I think it's only four or five years. Then I did fencing for 11 years. I did, These are all run like at the same time.

[00:02:26] So they're not exactly works exactly like that. They overlap each other obvious. I did boxing from when I was young. I started kick, didn't start kickboxing actually kicking until I was about 20 just after high school, and the, due to the same time, early twenties, about 2021. 

[00:02:42] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. Awesome. So it's actually your background's perfect for the mma.

[00:02:48] Industry and then just teaching. Yeah. 

[00:02:51] Alex Carioti: And then fencing was as an interesting add to it, that there's not a lot of whole people that MMA that had living is of fencing under their belt. So it gave me a different [00:03:00] understanding, like of the dynamic of distance and timing that was a bit unique coming into striking.

[00:03:05] Yeah, very much. 

[00:03:06] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. It's awesome. It's like a not many people. Value different because different disciplines have similar Yeah, similar takes into it. Like when I was doing boxing in karate, it flowed to other sports, like basketball with footwork and all that stuff. So yeah, 

[00:03:26] Alex Carioti: big time. And people don't realize they crossover.

[00:03:28] I guess it's really up to you what you make of it. But I think I didn't get into. Heavy into combat sports thinking that fencing would relate. It was, as I did more combat sports, I just recognized the same themes. Yeah. I realized combat's combat. You know what I mean? 

[00:03:43] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. , I know fencing is like it's fine art that like, but there's a lot of attacking and maneuvering and moving.

[00:03:52] Alex Carioti: Your feet cleverness and just general cleverness. Man, that carries over so well and has helped me like, so I fenced from [00:04:00] 10 or 11 till early twenties, so I'd been I was very lucky. to be to kinda learn these much deeper ideas of sport being an athlete winning. These things that carried through to me as a coach early.

[00:04:14] So by the time I had started coaching by my, like mid twenties or heading heavily into coaching, I'd already spent so many years on the national team I'd dones. World Championships. Commonwealth Championships, I'd done like 11 World Cups overseas. I trained I think three months total in different countries.

[00:04:31] Like I was so experienced as an athlete through that sport that I was able to bring so much of that attitude towards boxing, where I noticed in fighting, people are far less professional. It's more of a, if you're tough and you go in there and you fight hard and you would be good. But I try to look at it in terms of the nutrition, the strength condition, all the stuff that I'd been brought up being told was important.

[00:04:50] Being on the national team, you know what I. 

[00:04:53] Carlo Selorio: Yeah, it's I know just being able to move it to different disciplines and especially with mma with [00:05:00] different people bringing their own element to the fighting game. So 

[00:05:05] Alex Carioti: yeah, man, there wasn't a lot of professionalism in MMA when I started.

[00:05:08] It was really still underground sport. There weren't any shows that were legal actually in New South Wales at the. And even when I moved to Canada to train full time, when I got to Ontario, it's just got legalized. The month I arrived there, like the sport MMA got legalized. like only 10 years ago, 11 years ago.

[00:05:29] It was crazy. The Firsta event ever on Ontario was actually GSP versus Jake Shield. The UFC gsp, that's right, yeah. And so I got there to train full time and there were no events cuz no one had figured out how to run an MMA promotion yet. And so there would, they'd, one page show would pop up and every single person would try to get on it.

[00:05:47] So you could never get a spot. Like it was just so undeveloped when I started. There weren't opportunities, there weren't sponsors like it just, nothing was organized like it is now. 

[00:05:56] Carlo Selorio: It's just it's way more organized now, like [00:06:00] MMA are taking over boxing. So I've, I followed boxing a lot throughout growing up and it's just a dying sport now.

[00:06:09] Like it's still there. Yeah. It's their fault 

[00:06:11] Alex Carioti: though, huh? What was that? It's their fault. Yeah, it's their 

[00:06:14] Carlo Selorio: fault. It's a lot of politics in boxing as you would know. Even. . I actually, I was a qualified boxing instructor as well. So even when I was doing my certification then what they were teaching is it's a little bit biased, so to speak.

[00:06:32] It is what it is. That's. the downfall of the sport. 

[00:06:39] Alex Carioti: That's what I think. Yeah. It's corruption is the, one of the biggest problems of the sport. Even experiencing it even on a local level. They, like I said, you got a lot of dishonest people. The general attitudes are being successful in boxing is about being dishonest, fighting as many people who you can't beat you as possible to get as good a record.

[00:06:59] That just doesn't [00:07:00] exist in mma. You fight the best in. 

[00:07:02] Carlo Selorio: Yeah, everyone's ready to fight whoever's in front of them in mma. So yeah. That's how you prove yourself. Yeah. What event in your life that made you decide that you're going to go this is it. This is. This is 

[00:07:16] Alex Carioti: Honestly it's not even a positive moment.

[00:07:20] It's actually a bit of a negative moment. So what happened was there wasn't UFC fighter in Canada at the time. I don't wanna mention his name, but he was doing really well. Like he had won say, I think eight wins and two losses in the ufc. He was doing great. I found out he was still living at that time in his mum's basement.

[00:07:39] And I sat and thought about, I was like, Man, after eight UFC wins, he still doesn't have much money to do stuff with his life. Is this really what I want? Yeah. And that was the turning point. I literally, as soon as I heard that story, I booked my ticket back to Australia and I left Canada and I booked it.

[00:07:54] Opening the gym. Yeah. 

[00:07:55] Carlo Selorio: How. 

[00:07:57] Alex Carioti: It's uh, yeah, they got paid nothing back then. It's not like [00:08:00] now. Very few made a good living of fighting. Those guys did it off like pure, like passion and desire and stuff, but they were left with nothing after their careers. 

[00:08:10] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. Even in, I think the and kickboxing here cuz I, I used to train with the brothers brothers.

[00:08:19] Course course Michael and Rent over there. Yeah. So we used to train in a different team before they, they started full force. Started full force. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it's, it was different , but now I can see they with bulldogs for a bit too. Pardon? It. Their boys in Bulldog from Beer Cast Hill. Yeah.

[00:08:40] Alex Carioti: Yep. Where I started, that's where I started. 

[00:08:42] Carlo Selorio: Are you trained with them over there or 

[00:08:45] Alex Carioti: I was only there for a few months at Bulldogs as a beginner, so I didn't train with them, but they were there. Those guys were there training when I was there. That's how I learned to everyone was. Yeah. 

[00:08:54] Carlo Selorio: So Michael, I think when I first started boxing, I was in my, I [00:09:00] think 1920.

[00:09:01] Michael was like, 11, 12 even he was beating people up. It was, Yeah. At that age. So he had the talent. So 

[00:09:10] Alex Carioti: always never lack talent. 

[00:09:12] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. And, but it's just yeah they really wanted it. They tried very 

[00:09:18] Alex Carioti: much wanted it very much, but they made a business out of it. That's where a lot of them are different.

[00:09:23] So you get a guys that were great fighters, that had no head for business, no head for coaching. And honestly like I can, I don't, again, I don't wanna say names, but I've had a few of them that I've tried to employ to get cuz they're, their names as fighters are so big and they come in and they just, you can see their lives aren't in good places and I drive my best to help 'em, but They, they're always gonna be bitter for what they achieved and what they have left at the end of this point in their life.

[00:09:48] You know what I mean? 

[00:09:49] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. That I've noticed that with I think it's just a bravado of some people who feel like they're short change, yeah. But [00:10:00] yeah as Thedo Brothers, Excelling at the moment as their gym is growing like crazy. So as they should, they do a good job.

[00:10:09] Yeah. And they're nice guys as well. So very much 

[00:10:14] how does your business Carioti MMA make a dent in the world? 

[00:10:18] Alex Carioti: Look, at the moment it's been on a very local level. We've been helping a lot of kids at the moment that have been having a lot of life. We don't advertise that as a service.

[00:10:29] What we do is we just identify or speak to the people that are having trouble, and I spend a lot of like personal time outside of the Times table, trying to help them. Some people have been like a bit beyond help we've done the best we can with our resources, but the problems with their like history or drug use or family or whatever is quite difficult.

[00:10:52] But I'm trying to do my best to help 'em one at a. There's a few now that have made a really good turnaround that, again, we don't, you don't publicize it, the other [00:11:00] members wouldn't know. Yeah. But it's very good to see back training again. There's like a list of problems and most of it is like drug abuse.

[00:11:07] There's been like depression. There's been a whole lot of things like being outta home, living on the streets I've dealt with. You know what I mean? So I've been trying to help as many people in that, like in our community, because I feel like the community supports us as a business. I should support the community back.

[00:11:22] And that seems to be my, like immediate focus. In terms of what I can do in terms of international. All we're trying to do is push our athletes to make an impact and be good people or represent our country or our city as best as possible. So we don't really see a lot of trash from my athletes, especially like on social media or anything like that.

[00:11:47] We don't really promote it. Not that I police them to that degree. I think they just know it's not our vibe. So we're just trying to do our best to Be the best influence we can be, I would say. 

[00:11:58] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. Excellent. [00:12:00] This I see your social media post and it looks like you guys are doing really well with the athletes and all your stream.

[00:12:06] Yeah, definitely. With the athletes. Yeah. So they're they're representing you really well, representing the gym really well very cool. Really proud of that for you anyway. What were the big wins earlier on that made you. , this things gonna work for you. 

[00:12:21] Alex Carioti: So at first, the funny thing about opening up a business, when we, when I started, opened it in a one bedroom apartment with two and a half thousand dollars, I borrow from my mom cause I didn't have any money.

[00:12:34] And just the first, someone told me that what you'll do when you first open up a gym is you'll basically sit there at class time and no one will come. You've only got three members, , and so you get used to just sitting there and looking into space. But I actually had my best friend at the time who used to come every day.

[00:12:52] So even if it was just me and him and no one else would come, we'd just sit and talk about business and things we're gonna do. And so what would happen is when I got to my [00:13:00] first like consistent classroom of even five people, I. All right. This is something , and it's so little, It's so nothing. But I was like, All right, this is something.

[00:13:09] And then just like by 10 months, we moved out of that first location to our first bigger location, the one on Hunter Street in Hornsby. And when I took that, I admit that I had. A big concerns that we could go from paying like 12 and a half thousand a year to 50,000 a year. Like it was a big jump, but I was like, Listen, this is it.

[00:13:30] You gotta make it work Now. Rent would've 

[00:13:32] Carlo Selorio: been so expensive, 

[00:13:33] Alex Carioti: right? Yeah like I said it quadrupled. So we paid four times the amount of rent, which means you needed a lot more students. But I signed a four year. With four months rent free. So I knew I had four months to make it work, . So for four months I just worked very hard.

[00:13:53] And then we just exploded it there in that new place. Yeah, 

[00:13:57] Carlo Selorio: it's I saw the pictures of the new [00:14:00] place and it's it's it's, Oh, it's a 

[00:14:03] Alex Carioti: New place. So that's our fourth location we've opened since starting. So we've gone up and up as we've gone. This is spot number four.

[00:14:11] We'll be there for a little bit. Cause that place is huge. 

[00:14:14] Carlo Selorio: Yeah, I haven't, I have might just drop by and see. Should see how it is, yeah, I think I, I got a few friends that train at your gym as well, so they 

[00:14:25] Alex Carioti: Very cool man. Yeah. I love the new place. Love it a lot, man. Yeah. Long time. Yeah. 

[00:14:30] Carlo Selorio: Yeah, it was the Hunter Street.

[00:14:32] Hunter Street. It was because I lived at the top of that street. Yeah. And I used to just walk down because my passion growing up was boxing and I was like, Oh I want to box. At the same time my kids were doing karate it was a balance thing. Yeah. But it's being Filipino, we love our boxings

[00:14:53] Big 

[00:14:53] Alex Carioti: time. 

[00:14:54] Carlo Selorio: Big time. Yeah. You have a lot of Filipino, a few Filipinos there as [00:15:00] well in your gym? Yes, we do. 

[00:15:01] Alex Carioti: Yes, we do. 

[00:15:02] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. On the flip side, what events happened to, to you or to your business? You weren't sure if the business. Survive. But you figured out a way to pull through it. Oh 

[00:15:16] Alex Carioti: man. Yeah, so there were a few key events where financially we were a little stuck.

[00:15:23] More recently the last two lockdowns shook us a bit. In particular, this last lockdown are really shook us. We took humongous losses. But it's not like I would close my business cause I'm so investing. And now if these losses had come earlier in the first five years would've been done, guaranteed, would've been done.

[00:15:45] But then again, when I'm faced with these kind of situations, yeah, so typically when I'm, if the kind of gym is really where I set my heart on and I have financial troubles, I've been the past, like when we expanded the first time, I went and [00:16:00] got a fulltime job that I would do in the daytime for nine hours, and then I would come and run the gym at night cause I need to make enough money for the expansion.

[00:16:07] I did that for about maybe. 14 months, you gotta do what? So every time I've been, Exactly. And so even this time after this lockdown, I've really dug my heels in and gotten as much work as I can get my hands on. Because like I said, we just took some very unfortunate losses, which were which were 

[00:16:25] Carlo Selorio: very, I think a lot of gyms I got hit.

[00:16:28] I know. The previous gym I worked with they were close to closing as well, but they've they've managed, I think it's because of the community that they. . It's like the community that you build, they rally around you and make sure yeah that you guys are stand up. adult. 

[00:16:46] Alex Carioti: Yeah. Look, we had all our members try, donate and when it got to, I think, I can't remember what week in the lockdown, I actually emailed everyone.

[00:16:55] I canceled all their memberships, even the ones that were yelling at me to keep it [00:17:00] going because I just, the guilt of taking their money for that period of time was too much for me and I wasn't, I was in lockdown, but I was. Feeling uncomfortable with how it was going in terms of taking people's money.

[00:17:11] So I actually canceled all the donations against everyone's will and just said, I won't take it anymore. I'd rather solve the problem on my own. 

[00:17:17] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. Wow. It's it's really brave of you and just honest of you to be able to look after your students as well. So they have looked after me, man.

[00:17:26] It's just, I think it's reciprocating now. You got, you regrowing your business. So did you lose a lot of membership during that time or, 

[00:17:39] Alex Carioti: Yeah. Look, it wasn't just the membership. It was, we had just moved to that location two weeks before lockdown. And we had transitioned out of the old gym. The problem was we still had 16 a year and a half of a lease there at the old gym.

[00:17:54] So what happens? We had agreed someone to take the new, the old premises when we took over the new premises. [00:18:00] Then when lockdown hit, the guy pulled out of the. . And over a year now I've still been paying rent there. So we've buried a very large amount of money into an empty space, like very large amount of money.

[00:18:09] And so that's been holding a lot. Also at the same time, and this is just bad coincidence, I was launching an app for athletes training, which I'd invested very large amount of money, and then the lockdown happens and no athletes were competing. So quickly just became completely pointless. So I had to put it on the shelf and then rather than have money to continue to develop and promote it, which is what it needed.

[00:18:32] So much money's being blown into the old gym now that the project's a little bit on ice at the moment. Oh, a lot of things happen for me at the same time. It just really bad timing. 

[00:18:43] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. It's Covid. Really? A lot of people, like mentally, A lot of yeah, a lot of people got down. I have family members, I have friends who are actually got really depressed because of the lockdown.

[00:18:58] Yeah. And you would [00:19:00] know that because of people who go to the gym just to work out. It's just to burn off the energy. They're not doing that anymore. But yeah, a lot of people put on a lot of weight too. And then a lot of people were too scared to come back to training cuz they were too scared to start.

[00:19:16] Alex Carioti: Not just from not to not just be what they weren't before, but to start with all this extra weight and be embarrassed. Yeah. About how unfit they were. I got that a lot. I had to really work with a lot of people after 15 weeks of just eating and not exercising. Get them. Yes. And so what we didn't anticipate was at the end of 15 weeks when we reopened, we went to start everyone's memberships again.

[00:19:38] But after 15 weeks you have a an expected attrition, which was fine, cuz over 15 weeks you'll make, you'll lose, you'll make you lose. But after 15 weeks of just losing when you reopened, we had 30 cancellations on the first day and I was like, Holy fuck, this is a bad start. . Cause all those people that normally would've left over 15 weeks all left at the same time.[00:20:00]

[00:20:00] Yeah, that hurt me, I'll be honest. And all those people that lost their jobs, so many people couldn't afford the membership, eh? 

[00:20:05] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. That was I think it's just a thing that really happens. Like I think the pandemic just really shook the world, not just Australia I think we were still lucky that we were, like we were in lockdown, but there was still there some countries that were a bit more hit than us.

[00:20:25] I think mentally and physically, a lot of people in Australia got really depressed I guess, and just wanted to get out the situation. 

[00:20:36] Alex Carioti: 15 weeks is a long time. Ah, 

[00:20:38] Carlo Selorio: tell me about it. It was it was hard. You can't go it, especially people who are so used to just communicating, having a friend or even having a coffee with someone just having, you can't even go to your coffee shop.

[00:20:51] So there was 

[00:20:52] Alex Carioti: a ton. Yeah. And even the kids they're not we obviously had in lockdown one, we had our first child, lockdown two, we had our second child [00:21:00] and they've got no, they can't meet their family. You can't socialize 'em, you can't have 'em out and about. It's just very 

[00:21:05] Carlo Selorio: odd. Yeah. It was it was one of those things that It's just, it was just hard.

[00:21:11] And I think if you were mentally tough, people got really depressed about it. Yeah. 

[00:21:17] Alex Carioti: Yeah. 

[00:21:17] Carlo Selorio: Big time man. Going forward, what are the big goals that you have for your business for Carioti MMA in the next three to 10? . 

[00:21:26] Alex Carioti: So the big goals on the scene are oversee getting our first athlete to the ufc and that's obviously for business reasons cuz that's the direction we want to take our business.

[00:21:37] And obviously a bit for personal reasons. It's why you get into running into a major. So we got one girl who's pretty close, I'd say within 12 months of making that happen. Nice. And then the idea would be to open up a second location, which we've been discussing a lot, putting together a new.

[00:21:52] And once the second location is open, I don't think I would probably open more than two. 

[00:21:57] Carlo Selorio: More than two. [00:22:00] It's a lot of bandwidth trying to get back and forth by one gym to the other. 

[00:22:03] Alex Carioti: So Yeah. And I don't wanna ever offer a bad service or do a bad job, and I feel like over more than two I can't guarantee the service and I can't guarantee the product, which I don't like.

[00:22:14] No. 

[00:22:15] Carlo Selorio: Yeah. Which is fair enough. And it's like just the person that you are, that just makes things good for your students and your members. Yeah. Yeah. Take your time. Would you recommend any books for folks that read that wouldn't help them or. And 

[00:22:33] Alex Carioti: Yeah, man. So in a business sense, I've got I've had a few pivotal books.

[00:22:38] So I, I started when I started reading for business with just like the really obvious books. So I didn't study business. So when I opened up my own business, I taught myself I couldn't afford uni or a course, so I just went around about buying books and learning. I found some really good basic, like business 1 0 1 books that helped me initially.

[00:22:58] This is like in the starting [00:23:00] phases. And then after that I found a lot of the more Marky bigger picture books like the Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the ones about The mentality of growing rich and being wealthy. All marketers are liars was a great book. If I actually go through my book list, I could read you up a couple, but just more marky kind of famous books I started with and they give you like a general picture of how to.

[00:23:24] Conduct a business and your mentality towards business? I read Never Split The Difference was another good book about negotiating. I could probably pick a key book in each, like facet of business that I've relied, like I've used to motivate me. I watch a lot of, I listened to like business podcasts as well, which I felt.

[00:23:46] Watching business shows I know it's a funny one, but watching the old Dragons den in the uk, I used to learn so much. I was actually on Dragons Den in Canada. As what? As a paid actor . [00:24:00]

[00:24:00] Carlo Selorio: They should have gone to. The other one, the one, the Shark Tank shark. One of my friends, Yeah, one of my friends in Shark Tank, so he got funded.

[00:24:08] So That's 

[00:24:09] Alex Carioti: very cool. That is very cool. Very cool. So He'll yeah. Look, just anything that you can there's so much to learn from if you really have ears for it. Do you know what I mean? There was just so much content out there for a smaller amount of money. When I look. To getting a business degree and I thought I can spend money on a business degree.

[00:24:26] I can open a gym. I've decided to open a gym and just slam all the resources that are available online. There's just so much 

[00:24:34] Carlo Selorio: you can grab a lot of resources for free that just that you can get. It's just about using the actual 

[00:24:42] Alex Carioti: thin and the books aren't like, Think and Grow. Rich. Rich, that Poor Dad, All marketers, Liars, Split the difference.

[00:24:48] All those like four key books I mentioned. What are they? By the time I get my Spotify at my Audible subscription, it's really like a couple bucks each. Come on, . [00:25:00] You know what I 

[00:25:00] Carlo Selorio: mean? I got a fair few audible. I like having audible because when I was traveling or like when I'm driving, I put on my audible Just listen to everything.

[00:25:11] He can't just sit and read. So you just listen. Same man. 

[00:25:14] Alex Carioti: So I got a lot of same man when I was doing a lot of driving. That's when I found it the best. Yeah, it's 

[00:25:19] Carlo Selorio: awesome. Thank you again, Alex, for for coming out, coming here so much for, Thank you so much for being on the show. And those for listening, make sure you subscribe to the podcast and leave us a comment wherever you're listening that helps us keep making the show better and better.

[00:25:35] And also make sure you come hit up. Alex, if were, if they wanted to ask you a question and do and want to come join your gym where can they contact you? 

[00:25:47] Alex Carioti: Yeah, so on any of our socials, if you search up Carioti MMA on our website, or you can just call me directly on (048) 115-8068.

[00:25:58] Excellent. 

[00:25:58] Carlo Selorio: I'll put that all [00:26:00] in the show notes and I'll put all the books that you recommended on the show notes as. Thank you again. Thank you for opening up your life and I know how hard it is to open a gym and thank you for just your insights for that. We'll for, so for everyone.

[00:26:15] We'll see you next time and thank you again, Alex. Yeah. Thank you.