Around the facility, iPads are placed on the walls and next to weight racks with the headshots of every athlete who's visiting that day. They tap into their profiles and can access a bespoke training plan while inputting everything from how well they slept to their mood. The hope is that when they return to their home gyms, they'll continue inputting this information manually.
"The UFC in all honesty probably wasn't doing a really great job in tracking performance-related issues in terms of data, in terms of understanding what is the cause of certain physical ailments," Kimball said. "Really this facility is meant not just to be a training center for the athletes but a research, innovation and development and data capture facility."
The company that centralizes all that data is Kitman Labs. Founded five years ago in Dublin, Kitman aims to use machine-learning to find the root causes of sports injuries, correlating a host of metrics like athletes' training plans, hydration levels and medical records. Having worked with Everton Football Club in the UK, the LA Dodgers and Miami Dolphins, Kitman claims to reduce injury between 30 and 40 percent across different sports by combing through data that already exists.
"Whether it's the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, they all store medical records on their athletes, and they all store private performance data that the teams are collecting," said Stephen Smith, CEO at Kitman Labs. "They're collecting that data and they're storing it in the equivalent of a bucket. They're basically putting the lid on it every day, and it's useless."
For Duncan French, the UFC Performance Institute's VP of performance who previously worked with the British Olympic taekwondo team, University of Notre Dame and Newcastle United FC, identifying the cause of the UFC's injuries is the "golden bullet." "We're never going to stop injury. What we're trying to do is minimize injury rates," he said.
"I've been researching for the last 20 years, 15, years, what's the best way to train for MMA. Nobody really knows."
About 35 percent of the UFC's fighters have used the facility in its first five months, said Kimball, and the more athletes use the facility, the more data feeds into the UFC's system. As red flags for injury are discovered over the next 12 months, the UFC can educate its athletes on how to train most effectively. As a relatively young sport with individual gyms dotted around the world, there are few standardized training techniques.
"I've been researching for the last 20 years, 15, years, what's the best way to train for MMA. Nobody really knows," said Forrest Griffin, a former UFC athlete in the hall of fame who has been involved in the Performance Institute's development since conception and is its VP of athlete development. "Every football, every soccer, every baseball, basketball -- you know what traits you're trying to magnify. But MMA is the most open sport there is. We have guys that are horrible athletes and they're amazing fighters -- why? Guys that are amazing athletes but they're horrible fighters -- why?"
The Performance Institute is essentially the next step in the UFC's evolution as a serious sport. Three of the institute's official targets are to reduce injury, maintain cards on pay per view and accumulate athlete data, although a UFC spokesman declined to make the numbers they are targeting public. Right now, says French, the UFC is "working toward" an analysis of how much revenue injury is costing them every year.
"MMA is behind other more mainstream sports when it comes to surrounding the athletes with a good team and resources, so the Performance Institute is a big step in the right direction," said Jonathan Gelber, a sports medicine specialist and board member of the Association of Ringside Physicians. "Tracking injuries and performance is what all the other major sports do on a regular basis."