The ‘self-defense’ club: MMA enthusiasts practice punches on campus


Sacramento State mixed martial arts club’s goal is to teach students self-defense. Andrew Verdi, the founder of the club in 2010, thought of the idea after hearing about a fellow resident of the American River Courtyard dorms abduction and assault. (Photo Courtesy of Melissa Enamorado/Sac State MMA Club)

Noah Alvarez

After hearing about a kidnapping near the dorms in 2010, Andrew Verdi, the founder of the Sacramento State mixed martial arts club, had one goal: to teach students self-defense.

Verdi lived in the American River Courtyard dorms when a fellow resident was abducted by three men in a van and later assaulted. She was found by the American River three days later.

“I thought to myself, what if she could have thrown a kick or attempt a submission to buy herself some time,” Verdi said. “People deserve the chance to learn to defend themselves.”

In the fall of 2010, Verdi accomplished his goal and started the MMA club for any Sac State student that wished to learn how to defend themselves. The club’s goal was to introduce people to the techniques of the sport and give them skills they could use for the rest of their lives.

Verdi, a senior majoring in international business, grew up wrestling from the time he was 6 years old. It was not until he went to Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, however, that he discovered his passion for mixed martial arts.

“The sport intrigued me because it was related to combat,” Verdi said. “The greatest thing about it is it relates to self defense; the only weapon you have is your body.”

Verdi served as the club’s president for five semesters and helped the club build connections with dojos and MMA gyms around Sacramento. Now, he has taken a senior advisor role to mentor the younger generation, including current president Taylor Arthur.

Arthur, a sophomore planning to major in criminal justice, joined the club last year and was elected president for the fall of 2016. She loves the atmosphere of the MMA club and hopes to expand its membership in the next couple of years.

“Students might see the name and get intimidated but it is an introductory type course and everyone’s on the same level,” Arthur said. “With the sport as hyped up as it is today, I know plenty of students will be excited to join.”

In Arthur’s time with the MMA club, she met her best friend and club safety officer Melissa Enamorado. Enamorado is finishing up her last semester as an undergrad and is grateful she joined the MMA club in her junior year.

“Not only has it made me more confident of self-defending myself, I’ve also come out of my bubble and learned to be more assertive,” Enamorado said. “I know if something were to ever happen, I won’t be in too much danger because I could actually do some damage.”

Verdi is pleased to see he has helped change the lives of so many students by giving them an affordable opportunity to learn self-defense. At only $40 a semester, Sac State’s MMA club is the cheapest self-defense class in Sacramento.

“I’ve always tried to be a guiding light for the next generation,” Verdi said. “I really enjoy doing it because I really want to help some people.”

The MMA club has practices on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Feather Studio located on the second floor of the Well.