“I saw that most of our students were coming from [the Clayton County area] so I opened this place up but on a smaller scale,” Merit said. “I wanted to give the kids and adults something to do without having to travel 35 or 40 minutes.”
At Independent, formerly known as Genesis, Merit teaches boxing, muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts to nearly 200 students whether they wish to compete or not.
“Cardio conditioning is also a big part of what we do here,” Merit said. “Everybody who comes here doesn’t want to fight. It’s more of a conditioning thing and skill set. We just train for competition.”
For example, Alex Baba, who earned a 26-16 record as a featherweight, also instructs guys, who are just there for exercise, how to properly hit the heavy bags and hand pads.
“I just want to kind of give something back,” Merit said. “The community came out and supported me when I was fighting so this is the only thing I know how to give that doesn’t cost much.”
While Baba has more boxing experience, Merit is highly skilled in mixed martial arts and muay Thai so he trains amateurs and professionals in those arenas.
“My title in muay Thai is Kru,” Merit said. “The only thing higher is Ajarn. I’m one of the few people who actually hold the title of Kru in the state.”
(Kru is simply the level of the teacher in muay Thai.)
Throughout his career, Merit merged this style of fighting with jiu-jitsu when he was a competitor in King of the Cage.
“I’m pretty proficient on the ground with chokes and throws,” Merit said. “I just put everything together. I took the best of all the different styles that I have ever done and kind of made my own system.
“It doesn’t have a name but it’s pretty effective,” said Merit while laughing. “That is something that everybody does and what mixed martial arts is all about, taking what you do best and making it work.”
Merit would like to see even more youth in the area make this sport and discipline work for them as well.
“I see a lot of kids out here walking around with nothing to do,” he said. “This is something they can get into and it changes their lives. Once you get this nobody can ever take it away and you always got something to fall back on.”
Merit, 50, is currently retired and is a senior regional manager for a property management company.