FOR THE OPELIKA OBSERVER
For most people, the words “combat sports” carries a negative connotation.
The terms ‘violence,’ ‘aggression’ and ‘danger’ likely come to mind. Many regard the various disciplines as an unsafe practice and something they have no desire to expose their children to.
For MMA fighter Terence “Juice” Jones, these words mean something much bigger than sports. Combat sports represent a chance to provide a protective and positive skillset to the youth of his home town: Opelika, Alabama.
It is for this reason that Jones decided to open up “The Juice Box,” a brand-new gym designed to give young people the opportunity to develop skills in boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts.
A former high school and collegiate champion wrestler, Jones has found a way to utilize his skills to better his community.
“I had a passion for combat sports,” Jones said. “When I entered MMA and started competing in MMA, it gave me a passion for boxing and it all just merged together. I thought a way to get kids off the street would be boxing and combat sports.”
Jones says that being able to help the youth of his hometown is something that means a lot to him due to his ability to empathize with the adversity they face in everyday life.
“It means a lot,” Jones said. “These same streets they’re on, I walked them, I stood on them. I know what they’re going through in their mind and how hard it is to try to make it in this day in time.”
The emerging MMA competitor — and new local business owner — also mentioned his goal to give young people a safe place to release anger while simultaneously decreasing gun violence in the Opelika area.
“You get some of that aggression out in here instead of with a gun,” Jones said. “Gun violence is very high around here so we’re trying to bring all of that down.”
While the facility offers personal coaching, youth wrestling, youth boxing and self-defense programs, Jones will also focus on teaching children how to properly confront and deal with bullying.
“We do bullying techniques from bullying for kids,” Jones said. “We teach ways to protect yourself from fighting and if you have to fight a bully, both ways out. From stopping it before it gets to a fight and learning how to deal with bullies verbally. Then — if (bullies) do take it further — you will be able to protect yourself.”
The anti-bullying campaign further bolsters Jones’ claim that he is serious about more than just teaching combat sports, he seeks to mold young leaders in the community.
“[We are] building character, building great young women and men,” Jones said. “Go out and be leaders.”
With the competitive nature of MMA athletes, it comes as little surprise to most that one Juice Box is merely the beginning of a much bigger vision for Jones.
“It’s a big goal, but I’m trying to go Juice Box all over the world,” Jones said. “Any low-income neighborhoods in states that can use me, I’ll go. I’ll help anywhere with boxing, MMA and combat sports. Just mentoring the youth.”
On a local stage, Jones’ message to prospective members of the gym is rather simple: the Juice Box is representative of Opelika as a whole.
“The Juice Box represents Opelika’s character, our integrity, all those types of things,” Jones said. “Things that make me what I am. We’re fighters. We’re resilient. We bend but we don’t break. We’re intelligent. Everything you can think of that means striving for the best.”
His message to parents of Opelika youth speaks to Jones’ character and that which he hopes to instill in each student to walk through his doors.
“I may not be the biggest or make it to the biggest level of MMA,” Jones said. “But I can show them a little glimpse and have the next one take it and go straight through the roof with it.”
On the surface, the Juice Box might seem like a punny-named boxing local; When one looks deeper, it is not difficult to see how much the establishment is going to mean to the man who runs it and the community for which he hopes to serve.