From Beverly Hills to Požega: Following Dreams of Opening a Gym in Croatia

Daniela Rogulj

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What does it take to leave your glamorous life in the United States for the Slavonian city of Požega? The dreams of opening a gym, says the man who did just that. 

It’s no surprise that Croatia’s population is declining considerably. Namely, fewer babies are born, more of us are dying, people are marrying later and later, and the county is experiencing mass emigration, reports Večernji List on January 2, 2019. 

Emigration has become an incredibly common theme, and returnee stories are few and far between – though this is especially true in Slavonia and Baranja. According to the latest available data, in 2016, the most substantial emigration rate was held by Požega-Slavonia County, where there were 17.2 emigrants for every 1000 citizens.

But today, we have a rather happy story of a man who worked in the United States and Ireland, only to come back to his beloved Požega to follow his dreams. 

Meet Nail Mahmutović, a graduate of kinesiology and fitness coach, who is investing everything he’s earned into opening his own gym. 

“That idea burned inside of me back when I first met this job and it is real evidence that dreams come true, you just need to have a clear picture and move towards it. There will always be an obstacle on the road, but you should persist and wake up every morning with a clear goal in mind,” said the 33-year-old.

But how did Mahmutović decide that Požega was the place, considering the two countries he’d lived in before, Ireland and the US, have the world to offer? So much so, that some young people in Croatia would give all they had to switch places. 

“I came back for love, but also because I wanted a slower pace of life and the wonderful friends who always stood by me,” reveals Mahmutović, who also gained work experience at his father’s bathroom interiors company.

“I was not too interested in that job because I was always thinking about sports. I was actively involved in motocross and basketball. After I left my father’s business, I found a job in a fitness center where I felt I needed to improve even more so I graduated in kinesiology,” Mahmutović notes, adding that he thought about the gym project over the last seven years. 

To the broader local public, Mahmutović became famous in 2013 when he organized a match between Mark de Mori and Adnan Buharalija in Požega for the WBU title. 

“This was a fantastic experience for me, where I managed to build myself up as a person and meet a great circle of people I still have excellent contact with today,” remembers Mahmutović.

But, let’s move back to Mahmutović’s gym.

In the space of 300 square meters, Mahmutović provides 60 multifunctional devices, shower cabins, and entry to the premises for members via fingerprint, meaning they can train whenever they please.

Mahmutović said that everything he’s seen around the world has been transmitted to his gym. 

“I sincerely like to spend time at the gym, and through my years of experience, I have always listened to what people want, and what attracts them. So, I wanted to break the prejudices that gyms are for bodybuilders and fitness coaches. Around the world, this is a way of life. I wanted to change the habits of people to be better, so we have designed a way for working people to train before work, shower, and then easily go about their day. We still have one hundred percent dedication to every client, and we do not just focus on a few competitors and neglect others,” emphasizes Mahmutović.

And life in America and Ireland, according to Mahmutović’s experiences, is reduced to just one word.

“Time. I do not want to spend too much time on the negatives of Ireland, but I can say that the United States impressed me and it really needs to be experienced because I cannot compare it with anything. In America, all of our people love and cherish Croatia, so during a visit to their homes, you forget that you are in the United States,” adds Mahmutović, who said that Americans surprised him by their fitness practices. 

“Where I lived (Arizona, Beverly Hills), people really take care of themselves, so they run and visit fitness centers every day – but there is also a paradox: McDonald’s is on the way to every fitness center,” he recalls. 

Visitors to Mahmutović’ modern Požega gym will be greeted by Lewis Hamilton, Michael Jordan and David Beckham, with mementos reflecting Mahmutović’s diaspora experience. Though you certainly will not find a McDonald’s on the way.

To read more about Croatia’s diaspora, follow TCN’s dedicated page


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