There are countless MMA gyms, but some certainly stand out head and shoulders above the rest. While coaching and training is vital, the real key to a good gym is good fighters who serve as good training and sparring partners and who show the coaching is a success.
Here are the best in the world…and AZ Combat Sports is #7 in the WORLD!
1. Jackson’s Submission Fighting -
Team Jackson does not have the sheer volume of fighters of Xtreme Couture or ATT, but they seem to be producing the best fighters in the world. I would have to say that Greg Jackson is one of the most sought after trainers in all of mixed martial arts. The camp is the home of UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. Also, Team Jackson has fighters such as Keith Jardine, Shane Carwin, TUF 10 cast member Brendan Schaub, TUF 8 veteran Eliot Marshall, Nate Marquardt, David Loiseau, Donald Cerrone, Joey Villasenor, Duane Ludwig, and Leonard Garcia. If that is not enough to convicne you then let me point out that this team is the training home of “The Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson. Enough said. Guys like Joe Stevenson, Brian Stann and Yoshiyuki Yoshida have made trips to Jackson’s gym to better themselves. I would have to believe that this is nearly a consensus top pick right now.
2. Xtreme Couture – Las Vegas, NV
I do not know Randy Couture’s level of involvement with training fighters, however Xtreme Couture seems to be the place to be among many fighters. I do not even know if it would be easy to document the fighters who regularly train there. However, we do know that such fighters as Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard, Tyson Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Mark Coleman, Mac Danzig, Amir Sadollah, John Alessio, Martin Kampmann, Jay Hieron, Mike Pyle, and the lovely Gina Carano. Xtreme Couture boasts great training with Shawn Tompkins and great facilities that are state-of-the-art.
3. American Top Team – FL
American Top Team (ATT), is certainly the most sought after gym on the east coast and is a popular home for many of the UFC’s top Brazilian fighters. ATT seems to have a well rounded stable of fighters and recognizable names including: Thiago Alves, Denis Kang, Wilson Gouveia, WEC Featherweight champion Mike Thomas Brown, former WWE Star Bobby Lashley, Luigi Fiorvanti, JZ Cavalcante, Roan Carneiro, Ben Askren, Jeff Monson, Mark Bocek, Jorge Masvidal, Hector Lombard, Cole Miller, Thiago Silva, Alessio Sakara, Jorge Santiago, Hector Lombard, Thiago Tavares, Antonio Silva, Gleison Tibau, Din Thomas, and Danillo Vilefort just to name a few. If this was a list of the gym with the most recognizable fighters ATT would win hands down.
4. Team Quest – Portland, OR and Murieta, CA
The roster of Team Quest is hard to top. The fact that Team Quest operates out of Portland, Oregon as well as Murieta, CA shows the breadth of the team, but also fails to consolidate talent into one location. MMA legends Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland are the main attractions, but there are several other notable fighters who call Team Quest home. Chael Sonnen, Ed Herman, Nate Quarry, Sokoudjou, Kryztof Soszynski, and several other prospects. The fact that Henderson and Lindland are coaches of Team Quest certain build a strong case for Team Quest.
5. Black House/Nogueira and Silva MMA – Miami, FL
It is hard to argue with the talent at the old Black House team, which is now branded Nogueira and Silva MMA. The team is full of legends and champions. What more can you say than the fact that Black House is the home of UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Silva is not the lone attraction though. Former PRIDE and UFC Hevayweight champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, UFC Light Heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida, former WEC middleweight champ Paulo Filho, Ronaldo “Jacare” de Souza, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Junior Dos Santos, Feijao Cavalcante and Andre Galvao all train together in the Miami gym.
6. Miletich Fighting Systems - Bettendorff, IA
If this would have been a list taken 3-5 years ago Miletich would have been higher. Pat Miletich is a legend in the sport and has trained some of the best including champion Matt Hughes who has opened his own gym in Illinois. Several other guys used to train at MFC including Jens Pulver, Jeremy Horn and Robbie Lawler. However the cast of fighters at Miletich is not what it used to be. They still ahve some good talent including Tim Sylvia, Ben Rothwell, Mike Ciesnolevicz, Rory Markham, Spencer Fisher, Brad Imes, and L.C. Davis. The news broke this past week of Drew McFedries being booted by Miletich over comments made at the UFC 98 post-fight press conference. Still some solid talent and a solid trainer in Pat Miletich.
7. Arizona Combat Sports – Tempe, AZ
This is a gym on the rise. Arizona Combat Sports is run by the Lally brothers in Arizona. The gym boasts a handful of known fighters who specialize in their wrestling. The gym is home to WEC lightweight champ Jamie Varner, former WEC welterweight champ Carlos Condit, TUF alums and Arizona State wrestling alums Ryan Bader and C.B. Dolloway, Aaron Simpson, Matt Riddle and Steve Steinbeiss. Arizona Combat Sports has potential to become a top tier gym in a few years.
8. American Kickboxing Academy – San Jose, CA
American Kickboxing Academy is a great gym with great competitive fighters. I imagine sparring and training would be great here. The best way to judge a gym is by the success of their fighters and AKA has had some great success, but does not have THE guy yet. They do have the welterweight trio of Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Mike Swick, heavyweights Cain Velasquez, Paul Buentello, and Daniel Puder. Bobby Southworth and Trevor Prangley certainly add to the talent pool at AKA. They also have guys like Cung Le, Josh Thomson and Anthony Johnson regularly training there. I have to believe that AKA has top notch striking, but sub-par grappling training, which accounts for the lower ranking.
9. Wolfslair MMA Academy – London, England
This is a gym on the rise. The gym has gotten great exposure due to the fact that Michael Bisping coached the Ultimate Fighter season 9 and that Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will coach season 10. When Cheick Kongo and Rampage Jackson amoved to train at Wolfslair it really put this gym on the map. Certainly, some of the best talent in the U.K. was already there, but Kongo and Jackson gave real street cred to the Wolfslair. It is possible that by year end Bisping, Kongo and Rampage could hold UFC belts or at least get title shots. That is why Wolflair appears on this list so high.
10. Cesar Gracie – Stockton, CA
Cesar Gracie’s MMA gym is not the most well rounded, but they have a few key names which cause them to be on this list. Also, Cesar Gracie is a jiu jitsu legend and his disciples are really slick on the ground. Jake Shields is a consensus top 5 welterweight and is coming off of a huge win over Robbie Lawler. Nick Diaz has been impressive in Striekforce with wins over Frank Shamrock and Scott Smith. Gilbert Melendez is the interim Strikeforce champ, and Nate Diaz has impressed in the UFC. Their downfall is in the striking department, but their fighters seem to do okay.
Otehr notable gyms: Gracie Tampa, Team Punishment, Team Rough House, The Pit, Team Wand, Striking Unlimited, and Minnesota Martial Arts and Nova Uniao.