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Yee grateful for reopening, yet dealing with rules for gym

Ray Yee was grateful to reopen his gym, ABQ Kickboxing — Luttrell Yee MMA & Fitness, on Monday and is doing his best to abide by new rules set in place for use. (Courtesy of Ray Yee)

ABQ Kickboxing — Luttrell Yee MMA & Fitness, Ray Yee wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday, “is (smiley-face emoji) feeling thankful.”

And, yes, Yee’s gym, the Albuquerque business he runs with fellow martial-arts coach Chris Luttrell, is open after some 10 weeks of closure due to COVID-19 precautions.

Yet, in that same Facebook post, and again on Monday in a phone interview, Yee made it clear there were other emojis not so smiley that still apply to his situation.

“Trying to make ends meet, trying to jump through the Governor’s hoops,” he said. “You know what I mean?

“All we can do is try to abide by what (Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham) said. “There are some things that are kind of hard to get around and other things that are kind of easy to deal with. We’re doing the best we can.”

In his Facebook post, Yee laid out for the gym’s clients the conditions under which they can return:

“The front doors will be locked and access will only be permitted one at a time 15 minutes before any training begins. We will be adhering to gym occupancy regulations per the Governor’s orders.

“That means if you arrive any other time, you will not be allowed to enter the training area. You will only be allowed to enter and talk to front counter personnel for questions and pro shop sales. Anything other than that and you will need to wait outside or in your vehicle until your session begins.

“We have a doorbell installed on the frame of the front door but please expect to wait outside until we can follow protocols for entering the gym.”

In other words, Monday’s reopening was anything but business as usual.

Yes, there’s a pandemic, and it’s not over. Yee says he gets it.

Still, he said, for him personally as well as his business, the shutdown has been costly.

“I teach private lessons,” he said. “I work with the fighters and also do stunt work for some TV. When this came down, basically all my avenues of income, I was told, were non-essential. Which is tough for me personally.”

Yee made it clear, though, he’s not just thinking about himself.

“The guidelines are tough for any business,” he said, “whether it’s a gym or a restaurant or a bar. … I personally know businesses that are (owned by) good friends that have shut down. They’ll have to sell their businesses and close their doors. That’s just within the last two months.”

When Yee or Luttrell speaks to the media, the conversation usually involves a Luttrell-Yee MMA fighter. One of those, bantamweight Jordan Espinosa, is scheduled to fight on a UFC card scheduled for June 16.

But most of his clients, Yee said, will never step into a cage or climb into a boxing ring.

Those are the people, he said, who really sustain the gym.

“We do have high-level MMA fighters and competitors,” he said. “But our main focus has been on martial-arts fitness and wellness … college students, doctors, attorneys. A nurse, a soccer mom, whatever.”

His concern now, he said, is how eager, or reluctant, those clients will be to return.

“There are people that are gonna be extra cautious, that are gonna feel very uncomfortable,” he said. “But I think the majority of people feel like they’ve got to get back to normal, work-wise and lifestyle-wise.”

It is small businesses like his and Luttrell’s, Yee said, that make New Mexico go. As the economy restarts by degrees, he said, there’s no “i” in “team.”

“I hope small businesses can get together and help support each other, no matter the industry,” he said.

“There’s a lot of mom-and-pop stores that are living on the edge right now, barely trying to make it.”

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