Anthony Johnson has blossomed with the Blackzilians. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
When the Blackzilians came together in the aftermath of Rashad Evans’ self-imposed exile from Jackson-Wink MMA in 2011, expectations were high. The team counted amongst its members an array of highly talented fighters, including several exiles from American Top Team along with Evans himself, and it quickly recruited talented coaches like Mario Sperry.
Early returns, however, were not promising. Evans lost his fight to Jon Jones; Alistair Overeem was brutally knocked out by Antonio Silva; and Evans lost again to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a shocking upset. Behind the scenes, however, things were coming together. Renowned Dutch kickboxing coach Henri Hooft joined the team, and Olympic gold medalist Kenny Monday took charge of the wrestling. Recently retired fighter Jorge Santiago took over as a full-time coach, and the team grew with the addition of fighters like Michael Johnson and Vitor Belfort. Anthony Johnson exploded into a monstrous light heavyweight under the team’s capable direction, while Johnson shot up the rankings into the top 15 at 155 pounds.
The Blackzilians have also become a home for some of the best prospects in the sport, including Kamarudeen Usman and Phil Hawes. It took a little while for things to get rolling -- not surprising considering the complexity of Hooft’s striking system, to name only one factor -- but the team has established itself as a juggernaut. The new season of “The Ultimate Fighter” focusing on the rivalry between the camp and nearby American Top Team is merely the crowning recognition of the fact that the Blackzilians have finally arrived.
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