A couple who found love in a cage are using their passion for mixed martial arts to take their relationship to the next level.
Mitch Holden and Emilee Della-Libera have just opened their own warehouse-style gym in Unanderra, nearly two years since sparks first flew between their rib kicks and uppercuts.
Holden - a specialist in kickboxing, Brazilian jujitsu and MMA - was Della-Libera's martial arts mentor when they first met but it wasn't long before they realised they wanted more than sparring in sweaty gym clothes.
Their vision for Oni Fight Team in a new industrial complex on Waynote Place, is to offer a well-rounded approach to training and refer clients to associated health professionals.
"Like chiropractors, sports psychologists and sport supplements because we do really want to offer our members resources to help with overall wellbeing," she said.
Mental health often comes hand-in-hand with martial arts training, Della-Libera said, either as a way to combat stress and cope with life's struggles or mounting pressure to be the best you can be as an aspiring fighter.
"Particular men who feel a bit silenced when it comes to their mental health," she said.
The popularity of mixed martial arts has soared in the last decade, with a quick Google search revealing nearly two dozen facilities across the region which offer a mix of styles like boxing, kickboxing and wrestling.
Competitions like UFC and the rise to fame for Shellharbour UFC hero Alex Volkanovski has helped the popularity grow, according to Della-Libera.
"People are definitely tapping into martial arts a lot more within the Illawarra," she said.
"It's fantastic, martial arts is a lot based around discipline as well as physical wellbeing but also mental and emotional wellbeing."
Oni Fight Team gym currently offers classes in an array of styles, sparring and private sessions.
A development application for the new gym is currently on exhibition through Wollongong City Council's website and open for comment, until December 2.
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