Giving everyone a fighting chance

March 2, 2024 BY

For business owners Matt and Lani Williams, there's so much more to combat sports than what appears to the naked eye. Photos: CAMERON WATTS

People, purpose and perseverance are the three core values behind Bones MMA.Owners Matt and Lani Williams are on a mission to show how their “three Ps” underpin the way they teach combat sports.

Founded in 2017, Bones MMA is a family friendly gym offering training in Muay Thai, Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu.

The pair come from a professional fighting background and have worked with athletes on a local, state, national and international level.

Matt and Lani started Bones MMA to showcase their love for community, dedication to the sport, and to fill a hole in the Surf Coast market.

Bones specialise in mixed martial arts, muay thai, boxing and brazillian jiu-jitsu.


“Lani and I are both former fighters and we’ve both had a passion for martial arts for a long period of time,” Matt said.

“When we moved to Torquay seven years ago, we wanted to be involved in the community here and bring our love to the Surf Coast.”

Together they have worked with high schools, youth prisons and sporting clubs, and, at the time of their move, Matt was travelling to train, fight and was employed as a youth worker.

“I reached out to Surf Coast Secondary College and kicked off a free program in the gymnasium; it started with one kid and then got more popular and soon we had 20.

“We wanted to carry the momentum into a formal gym space because we felt we could satisfy all things youth work and martial arts and broaden the impact.

“The intention has carried us through, and it’s gained momentum.”

Bones MMA can host school groups and community organisations.


Starting with a small ring and 10 mats on the floor in the Torquay industrial estate,Matt and Lani hosted their first Bones MMA open gym day in 2018.

The open day attracted many young males aged between 17 to 24, who Matt said were looking for something new to try.

“Word spread fast. We worked really hard to tap into other demographics of the community and to break down the stigma of it being a sport for young men, which is certainly not true.

“We invited different groups and did free programs through the council for young women.

“We also did programs with Victoria Police and local primary and intermediate schools to help make it more accessible.”

The gym has classes and programs for young ones too.


Bones MMA continues to go from strength to strength. It has more than 150 members and now operates out of a new gym space, but Matt and Lani say the values which underpin the gym have not changed.

“People, purpose and perseverance are our big three,” Matt said.

Matt said people stood for the gym always serving the community and valuing everyone regardless of circumstances, purpose was all about helping people find a purpose through martial arts, and perseverance referred to helping people preserve through challenges at the gym and life.

“Young people on the Surf Coast can sometimes be searching for purpose, if they don’t have surfing, or team sports, they are a bit lost.

“The sport can serve a purpose as an individual pursuit, but with a team mentality – we help to champion this sort of mentality and give people this substance.

“Perseverance is our last big value: When people come here they are challenged and given the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and work hard.

“It also means challenging people in conversations and sitting with them and helping them out with their struggles.”

Bones MMA has strong values referenced to being a good person and leaving your ego at the door.


He said the gym’s values referenced those of Muay Thai and MMA, and the sport’s connections to Buddhism; being a good person, karma and leaving your ego at the door.

“It’s a community celebration more than a blood sport,” he said.

“We are teaching life lessons and sharing respect, caring and empathy with children and adults.”

Lani and Matt Williams in the ring at Bones MMA in Torquay.


Matt, Lani and the team at Bones MMA now offer classes for all levels and ages, six days a week from their new space at Haystacks Drive, Torquay.

The new gym features two large rings, an MMA cage, floor space for 30 to 40 participants and other facilities.

The upstairs area of the gym has an MMA octagon, plenty of exercise equipment and floor space for classes.


“It’s a gamechanger for sure and will help us grow in the future,” Matt said.

“We had outgrown the other space and we were trying to future proof our footprint in town.

“It’s probably three times the size and will serve us for the next 20 years, which is our intention.

“We’ve got really good relationships with local businesses, so we didn’t want to go far.

“We are very attached to our community, its people and our purpose. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

For more on Bones MMA, head to bonesmma.com