Planet Eater has been voted as Germany’s MMA Team of the Year for the second time in its short six-year existence. This may seem to be nothing out of the ordinary for those unfamiliar with German geography, but let me clue you up, so you can understand what a great moment this is for head coach Peter Sobotta and his team.
His optimally-equipped picture-perfect 500m² gym is not located in one of the countries’ metropolises like Berlin, Hamburg or Munich, but in placid 35,000 population small town Balingen in the Swabian Mountains. Usually you would come here for a variety of hiking trails, rock climbing or cross-country skiing. Having an internationally relevant Mixed Martial Arts performance center is definitely not what you would expect here.
What eventually turned out to become a haven for pro fighters from all across Europe started out as a necessity when UFC fighter Sobotta needed to create a professional environment for his training camps. This was incompatible with the typical Swabian pigheadedness. “You want to have the key to the gym, so you can train in the mornings?”, the owner of his previous gym asked in horror. “We can’t do that” was his predictable answer.
So this 23-year-old kid was not only given the task of competing on the biggest stage of martial arts (and at a time when the roster was not bloated up to 550 fighters, but consisted of the crème-de-la-crème of MMA), but running his own business and school from a comparably young age.
Fast forward to 2016: Peter no longer only leads his own squad of home-grown talent like Dima and Kostja Götte, Alexandros Michailidis, Mert Özyildirim and Ilja Stojanov into battle. Other German-based hopefuls like Jessin Ayari and Valdrin Istrefi have joined the camp as well. Fellow compatriots Krzysztof Jotko and Łukasz Bieńkowski represent the Planet Eater colors beyond the border in Poland.
But it does not stop there: Spanish star Abner Lloveras has spent a month in Balingen preparing for his UFC debut. KSW champion Artur Sowiński has come down to brush up on his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills ahead of his title fight in November. Finnish blue chip prospect and CAGE mainstay Aleksi Nurminen has been a regular visitor ahead of his fights. Titanic German middleweight Jonas Billstein enjoys training with Sobotta & Co. as well. The list goes on and on.
As the strategic partner for the gym, I didn’t get tired of stressing to Peter that we need the international orientation in order to not only become a player in the German marketplace, but a relevant name internationally as well. Granted, we’re not at the level of an Allstars Training Center, Fight Nights Team or Straight Blast Gym Ireland just yet, but then again Planet Eater is only six years young and Balingen is not Dublin, Moscow or Stockholm. But we’re right behind them, breathing down their necks.
Under the watchful eye of Dean Lister, Peter has matured into one of the top five jiu-jitsu practitioners in MMA in Europe. His unique style of teaching is yielding him more seminar offers than his schedule can handle. Two years ago, we added coach Yasin Seiwasser, a phenomenal striking and mind coach that can look back on over thirty years of training and teaching. With Marco Knöbel and Rainer Benjatschek, two excellent vets of the fight game and still active competitors in their prime are heading up the branch gyms in Donaueschingen and Überlingen.
Without wanting to give away all too much, but we have big plans for 2016 as well. If you think we will sit back, enjoy our handiwork and rest on our laurels – think again! We have a wealth of ideas how we can make something good even better and I promise we won’t rest until we reach excellence in every aspect. There is one thing that will never change: The character of our group. Planet Eater is more than a team. It’s a family.