Joe Brammer


The Onetime MMA Champion Turned Entrepreneur's Vision For Des Moines #1 Group Personal Training Studio (Now With Four Locations) Includes 20-Plus Gyms Throughout The Midwest

Joe Brammer

Long before Joe Brammer emerged as a professional MMA fighter known by his peers and fans as "The Southside Strangler," He knew the pain of being an overweight kid in need of a personal and physical transformation. In addition to dieting, the self-discipline it took for him to drop 60-70 lbs. around eighth grade involved extensive workouts, and this training soon sparked a passion for martial arts.

Brammer launched the two careers that have defined his professional life in quick succession. He had his first pro fight on his 21st birthday and became a Certified Personal Trainer (from the American Council on Exercise) at 22 before later adding to his designations Certified Group Fitness Instructor and Certified Sports Nutritionist. His eventful MMA career included a 7-3-1 record (with five of his wins coming by submission), being signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and making his UFC debut at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale. He was also the MCC (Midwest Cage Championship) 155 lb. MMA champion, as well as the Glory 155 lb. MMA champion.

Since retiring from the ring several years ago, he has made body transformations his full time business. "My main goal, he says, is to create the most exciting fitness experience possible for my clients. I am committed to their success!"

Since opening his first Elite Edge Gym Transformation Center in the Des Moines suburb of Waukee in 2011, he and his growing team of fitness pros have added three more locations throughout the area. The facility has grown to become Des Moines' #1 Group Personal Training Studio. Over the past five years, Brammer has worked with people from all walks of life, confidently declaring that he has "not had ANYONE that has followed my instructions and didn't get the results. PERIOD. All I ask my clients to do is show up and follow my instructions."

There is a clever graphic on Elite Edge Gym's homepage which says it all: "WARNING! MY PROGRAM IS ADDICTIVE. As soon as my clients see results and compliments starts rolling in, THEY ARE HOOKED."

In addition to the group Boot Camps, Elite Edge Gym offers an advanced program called Training for Warriors, which was originally formulated by Martin Rooney, a legendary trainer of UFC Fighters, NFL players, Navy Seals and Army Rangers. Brammer calls this the gym's extension program for when "you've lost all your weight and you're looking for the next thing to keep progressing."The dedicated website for this program makes the challenge: "We are looking for 30 HIGHLY MOTIVATED people for our next 6 Week Warrior Challenge."The focus is on getting people strong and athletic and looking amazing. The website emphasizes, "No pretty pink dumbbells and treadmills here."Training for Warriors is designed to energize the body, build lean athletic muscle and eliminate aches and pains.

When he first took over another gym's lease to open his first location, Brammer's goal was simply to build enough of a clientele to pay his bills and get his new full time venture off the ground. Now with the help of an industry mentor who has 37 fitness facility locations, he has developed a powerful, expansive vision that includes opening from 20-25 gyms throughout the Midwest. "It's like what Tony Robbins says, ‘success leaves clues,'" the 32 year old entrepreneur says. "My mentor has made all the difference in the world in inspiring me to impact more people through our unique body transformation system. If you're a white belt, you study with a black belt who can show you how to get to the next level. It's best to learn the ropes from someone who has done it a million times."

The first "clue" as to what sets Elite Edge Gym apart from other, more mainstream facilities in the region is the whole "body transformation"aspect." Clients don't come there to "work out" but to completely change their lives and self-image. "We have state of the art equipment and all of our trainers are of course trained very well," Brammer says, "but the fact that we are a center committed to total transformation ensures that only people who are very serious about improving their body and mindset are going to sign on with us. We're about personal development and a high level of personal accountability. This includes frequent follow-up emails and texts, a food journal they turn in every three days and ongoing weigh-ins."

"All of this ensures that our clients truly have to commit to a program that involves ongoing coaching, rather than traditional training," he adds. "Coaching involves a lot more follow-up and accountability."

That level of customized planning and personal attention has attracted over 4,000 clients thus far, ranging in age from 13 to (yes, this is not a typo) a 90 year old woman! It involves three days a week of cardio and kickboxing type workouts, alternating with three days of strength training - for a full six day workload. The strength training workouts were created by world record holding power lifter Kyle Keough, while Brammer himself oversees the kickboxing conditioning.

After revealing a fascinating demographic truth about Elite Edge Gym's growth - that 90 percent of its clients are woman, average age 35, wanting to lose 15-25 lbs. - Brammer explains the psychology behind how he and his staff discern the type of clients who will sign for and make it through the long haul of coaching.

The first thing they ask is, "Do you want to lose this weight or do you need to lose this weight?" To the person with a casual interest in fitness, it all may sound the same, but Brammer points out that it's an important distinction. "We're not the cheapest group gym in town, and we're in the business of getting you to your goals," he says. "We believe that wanting to lose weight comes from a different head space than if you need to. We only take people who NEED to because we have an 80 percent success rate for helping people lose 20 lbs. in six weeks - and that takes commitment, not wishy-washiness."

"We want the people who seek out our program to think about their motivation," Brammer adds. "Is it because your girlfriend dumped you and you're mad about that and you want to get back at her by looking good? Or is it because the doctor warned you that with your current lifestyle you might not make it or be able to run around with your kids? Or because you get depressed looking in the mirror, or want to look good wearing a tight shirt at the beach? We want you to get real with us about why you're here. What will losing weight give you and why will it make you feel better? We make sure our clients connect with why they want to lose weight. If their reason is so they can live long enough to enjoy their kids or to look their best before getting married, those are powerful reasons not to go to a conventional gym."

Brammer's transition from the world of MMA to entrepreneurship was more than a matter of choosing a logical career transition. For him, it was purely a matter of survival. Though he enjoyed a great degree of success, it didn't take him long to realize that as a fighter, relying on promoters to arrange matches and pay him, he didn't have a lot of control of his life, his work or his finances. He personally knew a guy who went from being a #1 contender to being broke because of injuries. Brammer then experienced the desperation himself when he got hurt and had three fights postponed, leading to a full year without a payday. This led him to take on training clients to pay bills.

He relates a terrifying but ultimately real life tale of hitting rock bottom that puts all of his current success in perspective. It rolls like a "superhero origin story" that has the power to inspire budding entrepreneurs to never give up on their lives and their dreams, no matter the odds.

"Along with a few other guys," Brammer says, "I signed with some former UFC fighters who were going to arrange a fight. I was living in a house with two other fighters in San Diego at the time. They kept postponing it. I was visiting my parents in Iowa for Christmas and tried to cash one of these promoters' checks to get a return flight to California, and it bounced. At that point, I had not had a fight in 14 months. Then I got word that our rental house there had been robbed. I lost my UFC Fight posters, computer, bed... everything but the backpack of clothes I had with me was gone. But of course, I knew how to train people, and I started working with some clients to get money just for a flight back to San Diego.

"Within 30 days, I had five or six peple paying me $500 a month cash. I bounced from gym to gym looking for a place to train people, and I gave the owner a portion of my earnings. One of them offered me the option to take over his lease, and within two months I had made more money training people than I had in years as a fighter. That's where the road to Elite Edge Gym started."

Brammer believes that his brand is successful and clients get powerful results because he's in a relationship business, not a transactional business. "If you train with us," he says, "you know me, we know you, and you're part of a community that's dedicated to your success." Equally important is the ability he has had as an entrepreneur and pillar of his community to make a powerful, lasting impact on so many people.

"When I was fighting, the coolest thing was getting a knockout," he says. "So you win, and that's great. And guys under my trainers here have gone on to the UFC, and I feel happy for them. But it's a lot cooler hearing the kinds of stories we hear at the gym about the way we are transforming lives. Last year, the mother of a teenage girl we worked with wrote us a letter telling us how she had tried to kill herself a few times before she joined our program and how working with us had literally saved her life."

To Brammer, all the testimonials from people who have lost hundreds of pounds are a lot more rewarding than being in the ring, as he says, "beating the crap out of someone." He adds, "I loved fighting, but it's just not on the same level of meaning and purpose. I've also enjoyed learning how to run and build a business and the teamwork involved. I've learned that personality is even more important than skills, which is why we only hire outgoing, fun people to work at Elite Edge Gym. It's also great to realize that people, employees and clients alike, are capable of so much more than they think they are!"