March MMA Gym Feature: The Proving Grounds/Controller MMA


Connor Matthews is undoubtedly on the verge of being signed by a major MMA promotion, but to speak to him, you wouldn't know it. He is too humble and too focused to dwell on such things. New England MMA fans are familiar with Matthews for his in cage exploits and undefeated (5-0-0) professional record, but I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Connor in a different setting. Just two months ago, the long time local MMA standout opened his own MMA school. Proving Grounds MMA now occupies a small space inside Seaside CrossFit in Wareham, MA. Within that space, Coach Matthews is sharing years of combat sports knowledge with new students, both young and old.


Matthews is an excellent instructor for a number of reasons. He has the requisite knowledge, so he is believable when he speaks. He has the necessary skills, so he can demonstrate with effect. He has the attention to detail which is needed by every quality coach. Most importantly however, he has the personality to be relatable. He doesn't carry himself like he believes he's better than anyone else, he doesn't have a massive ego, and he doesn't take himself too seriously. Connor Matthews is a regular guy who very clearly cares about helping his students improve. As someone who makes his living as a coach, I admire that.


In addition to his students, Matthews also has the respect of his peers. This is evidenced by how often he can be seen cornering local fighters at various promotions throughout the New England area. He is a mainstay in the corner of standout amateur fighters like Andrew Valdina & Erin Johnson, and recently was even tabbed to assist Cage Titans Bantamweight Champion, Joe "The Party" Penafiel, during his title fight at Cage Titans 51.


Show Them, Don't Tell Them

Matthews has always dreamed of opening his own school, but even he is surprised he was able to do so at this early stage of his career. While his own MMA career remains his primary focus, he is passionate about teaching and eventually building his own fight team.

In his own words, he is, "a big believer in leading by example", and wants to, "show the next generation what can be done so they can follow in my footsteps and even take it to a higher level". A firm believer in the value of cross training, Connor plans to offer many different fighting disciplines which will be taught by a variety of different coaches.


This cross training approach is one that Matthews himself has been using for quite some time. After studying traditional martial arts as an adolescent, Matthews discovered Lakeville MMA while in high school. It was there that he was introduced to MMA while training under the watchful eye of John Marando. Since then, he has branched out and supplemented his training with Danny Savery (jiu jitsu), Jake Mainini (muay thai), Mike Avila & Steve Maze (boxing), Mike Perry (S&C), and of course, Joe Lauzon (MMA). Matthews is smartly acquiring knowledge from a variety of tremendous coaches, but to this day he still credits Marando for inspiring his MMA career, stating, "I aspire to be a positive person, sharing knowledge of martial arts the way he is in the community". After spending an evening with Connor and his students, I can confidently tell our readers he is well on his way to doing just that.



UFC on the Horizon?

There's very little doubt that Proving Grounds MMA will explode in popularity at some point in the future, and Connor Matthews will be a successful coach for years to come. First however, he has some business to handle. That business is winning fights and getting his call up to the UFC. Like most local fans, I expect that will be happening sooner rather than later, and all of us at New England MMA will be there to support him throughout the journey.


I want to thank Connor for giving me (and my son) access to his gym as well as giving us a glimpse into what makes him tick. He is a high level fighter, a high level coach, and a high level human being. If you are in the Wareham area, be sure to stop in and check out this up and coming MMA program. It will be well worth your time.

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