ST Helens’ “best kept sporting secret” is flying the flag for the town across the globe nine years after moving in.

Hamma Academy of Mixed Martial Arts set up base on Church Street in 2009 with five amateur fighters on its books.

Since relocating to North Road three years ago, there are now 17 full-time and 35 amateurs associated with the gym who have competed at events all over the world in places such as South Africa, Russia, Germany, Finland and Ireland to name a few.

Their fighters, who hail from a range of places including Manchester, Stoke, Colwyn Bay and Pwllheli, in Wales, have won 43 British titles in the past five years.

Head instructor Sean Martin, 42, said: “Not many people know that we represent St Helens all over the world – we are the town’s best kept sporting secret.

“I am very proud to do that. Wherever we go we carry the town’s name with us and we are also recognised as one of the top gyms in Europe.

“It is commonly thought that the only sport in St Helens is rugby league but we are proving that is not the case.

“I think the sport is growing because people have embraced the range of styles that is involved in fights – it is like the modern day gladiators.

“In terms of popularity, MMA has overtaken boxing in America and I think it will be the same in this country in 10 years.”

Sean is also adamant he has the next Conor McGregor on his hands.

Four-times British title winner Beau Gavin, 21, from Whiston, has beaten three of the Irishman’s sparring partners and he has been tipped to go all the way to the top in the UFC.

Veteran soldier Bryan Creighton, 31, who completed one tour of Afghanistan, also has ambitions of fighting in the UFC next year.

He said: “We are like a big family and stick together to help each other out when we need it.”

Sean, from Rainhill, a third degree black belt in kickboxing, also has a 17-year-old son, Conah, who is an under 18s junior national champion in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu.

He says a lot of the work in the gym is about developing the youth and have launched a joint-funded project with the YMCA in St Helens to deliver a free class for children from the age of five to 14 on Fridays at 5pm. He added: “We have so many kids from the local area that come into the gym and become part of a group.

“We have more than 20 classes a week with five of them for children and it is getting more popular.

“It is changing their lives and giving them more confidence.”

“I think there is a problem with laziness and obesity in this country and I think we are helping to do something about it.”

Sean also praised the support received from the St Helens Chamber in providing a bursary to help set up the club.

For more information about the gym and its classes visit