There’s not really a contest for the toughest guy in Pittsburgh. But if there were, former Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier might be that guy. He terrorized opposing quarterbacks for four seasons, then suffered a career-ending, paralyzing spinal injury in 2017, after which he defied the odds and learned how to walk again.

Now, he’s the brand ambassador for UFC Gym Pittsburgh, coming later this year to Market Square, where people of all skill levels can take fitness and conditioning classes inspired by mixed martial arts (MMA). The 40,000-square-foot space is at 236 Fifth Ave., the site of the former YMCA Downtown branch that closed in 2018.

Ryan Shazier
Photo courtesy of The Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation wesbite.

“His story inspired our entire city and he shared his journey with us,” says Lucas Piatt, CEO of Piatt Companies (formerly Millcraft), which is developing the space. “Everyone faces struggles and we’re all fighting for something. The UFC Gym in Market Square will be the first of its kind here and we hope to expand with three additional locations throughout the region where people can come to fight their fight and be supported through programming for everyone and world-class amenities.”

The concept is to make the benefits of MMA training accessible to all, no matter their experience or athletic ability. That includes group fitness classes like boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and kickboxing, as well as signature programming such as Circuit Breaker (a training regimen of cardio and weights) and Muscle Makeover (weights, resistance tubing, loaded barbells and more).

Photo courtesy of the UFC Gym website.

The first in Western Pennsylvania for the national chain, the facility will feature a weight room with free weights, Olympic lift platforms, cardio equipment, indoor turf, a mat room and a full-service locker room. There’s also the Arm Bar Cafe and the Recovery Area for pre- and post-workout treatments, including cryotherapy.

“We’re thrilled to offer our luxury fitness center, signature programming and Train Different mentality to the fitness enthusiasts we’ll soon be welcoming,” says UFC Gym’s CEO  Adam Sedlack.

Shazier formally retired from the NFL in 2020 and now runs the Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation to raise resources for people who have had spinal cord injuries.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.