LAS VEGAS -- Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24 Hour Fitness who left the company in early 2008, now has a new venture in place. His private equity firm, New Evolution Fitness Co. (NEFC), is partnering with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a mixed martial arts organization, to launch a nationwide and global network of UFC gyms.

“UFC Gyms is something we’ve been looking at for a long time. It completely made sense to me when we found the right partner in Mark Mastrov – this is the guy who has created some of the most powerful fitness brands in the world,” Dana White, UFC president, said in a statement from the company. “UFC gyms are going to shake up the fitness industry the way UFC shook up the sports industry. All the energy and excitement that we have brought to the fight business we are now going to bring to the fitness industry. There is going to be something for everybody at all levels – from first-timers to world-class athletes. We’re going to get people excited and motivated to work out and get in great shape.”

UFC Gyms will be the first major brand extension for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. In alliance with NEFC owners Mastrov and Jim Rowley, a former co-president at 24 Hour, UFC Gyms will give UFC enthusiasts and fitness seekers alike the opportunity to practice the training techniques of famed UFC athletes, such as Georges St-Pierre and BJ Penn, according to the UFC.

“I have been a long-time fan and admirer of the UFC. An introduction from a friend to Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White of the UFC immediately sparked the idea of combining the strength of the UFC with our expertise in the fitness industry,” Mastrov says. “The manner in which we approach business, the style in which we run our companies and the passion we share for fitness has made this an easy decision and a natural partnership. The fitness industry needs innovation, it needs something to get excited about, and we all agree that UFC Gyms will deliver on that in every way.”

Forbes Magazine estimates that the UFC organization is a $1 billion enterprise. Purchased in 2001 for approximately $2 million, the UFC is the world’s largest pay-per-view content provider and has programming in more than 100 countries and territories around the world in 17 languages. Last year, Anheuser-Busch Inc. and Harley-Davidson Motor Co. forged core sponsorships of UFC events, which have a viewership base of millions globally.