Pacific Ring Sports (photo credit: Jimmy Chan)

Mixed martial arts has attracted superstars and spectators, as well as eager students of all ages, in increasing numbers. Modern MMA competition emerged in 1993 with the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Since then, the sport has become increasingly popular in California and the Bay Area. Use this list of mixed martial arts studios in San Francisco, in addition to several more throughout the Bay Area, to find a great MMA gym.

Pacific Ring Sports
493 40th St.
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 444-5269

Conveniently located across the street from the MacArthur BART station, Pacific Ring Sports is a 6,500-square-foot facility co-owned by a former pro kickboxer. Beginners are welcome to use loaner gloves and hand wraps before committing to the sport. About half the members are women who benefit from the cardio and strength conditioning as well as the self-defense instruction. In addition to MMA, you can take up Muay Thai, boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, strength and conditioning classes for all levels, even yoga. The supportive MMA instruction is also offered for kids.

American Kickboxing Academy
7012 Realm Drive
San Jose, CA 95119
(408) 225-9000

AKA is where Herschel Walker did his training. It’s geared to the entire family with all sorts of classes every hour. The 27,000-square-foot facility is large enough for a cardio and weights room, an outdoor lap pool, two squash courts plus the gym. Opened by pro Javier Mendez in 1995, AKA instructors are professional fighters as well. From beginners and up, MMA classes have an emphasis on wrestling and combining striking techniques with grappling techniques. For the youngest, Fundamentals Kickboxing takes 4-6 year olds through the principles of stand-up and ground skills.

Academy Of Self Defense
3475 Woodward Ave.
Santa Clara, CA 95054
(408) 844-8485

At Academy of Self Defense, a variety of classes are designed with the purpose of teaching self-defense as well as providing fitness and conditioning. Most of the equipment you need is provided, including MMA cage barriers, 40 eight-foot training bags, Thai pads, kick shields, belly pads, medicine balls, Krav tombstones, resistance bands and focus mitts. Take a two-week free trial to find out more about the 75 classes per week in a range of disciplines at this gym established in 2005.

(credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Combat Sports Academy
6207 Sierra Court
Dublin, CA 94568
(925) 230-8442

Mixed martial arts (also available for kids) is one of the eight programs at CSA, where Crossfit, Dutch kickboxing, judo, karate, kung fu, Tae Kwon Do, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga, freestyle wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling are also taught. Fans of the coaches and instruction at this 15,000-square-foot facility say you’ll get a sense of what to do in different situations, learn to defend yourself with skill, get fit and have good fun doing it. Ask for the two-week free trial.

El Nino Training Center
2920 3rd St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 550-6689

If you’re a new student, you might begin with a private lesson in Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. Grow as you learn and improve your skills at this place which is known for its sense of camaraderie and expert coaches. MMA is a combination of several mixed martial arts elements consisting of striking and grappling. Your teacher will be a UFC veteran who teaches fighters how to successfully integrate several mixed martial arts to achieve effective self defense. The 7,000-square-foot gym location between 25th and 26th streets is handy to the T-line train that runs into the Dogpatch near Mission Bay.

This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr via for CBS Local Media