When 17-year-old Paulo Jordan Carre of Rockville Centre was in eighth grade he was seeking an outlet after school to be productive. Christian Defiris, owner of ECF Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness Training Facility in Lynbrook, created just such an opportunity for Carre to explore his interest in kickboxing by providing training at no cost — but in exchange for helping maintain the gym. Four years later the South Side High School senior is shining in the ring as a competitive MMA fighter, and is one of multiple youngsters that have taken advantage of Defiris’ mentoring program.
“If it were not for him I would have never had the opportunities to excel in martial arts,” said Carre of Defiris. “He has allowed me to train even when I didn’t pay, simply in exchange for some gym chores such as mopping mats and sorting equipment.”
Defiris, a Valley Stream Central graduate and Lynbrook resident, formed ECF Fitness (formerly BCMMA) three years ago, and moved to a larger space at 147 Sunrise Highway in late 2014. The undefeated amateur fighter enjoys sharing his wisdom with students and allowing those who are otherwise unable to afford training a chance to pursue their dreams while also staying out of trouble.
Defiris, 35, received similar guidance from his wrestling coach Bruce Mantrone at Long Island City High School in Queens, as a freshman prior to moving to Valley Stream. He said without Mantrone stepping in, he could have traveled down a perilous path.
“It’s better to have these kids in a positive environment than it is to have them on the street looking for money and getting into trouble,” said Defiris, who is president of the New York amateur MMA promotion, Extreme Cage Fighting in which Carre competes. “Growing up I was very poor and never had anyone that looked out for me that way and always wanted someone to.”
George Melendez of Elmont has trained for free with Defiris at ECF during the past year with hopes of achieving his dream of competing as professional MMA fighter. The 21-year old Nassau Community College student mops floors and cleans bathrooms and in return gets high-level training. He is now 4-0 in ECF bouts, and is striving to be a professional fighter within the next year.