Training camps are the backbone of mixed martial arts. This is an individual sport, but fighters do not emerge from the womb as fully formed athletes ready to execute high-level techniques in front of 20,000 fans. Coaches and training partners hone their skills in the daily grind of practice, hundreds of hours of strength and conditioning, mitt sessions, drills, rolling and full-contact sparring.
The quality of those training partners and coaches matters. Young fighters who come up in the more professional environments at these quality camps are drastically more likely to find success at the pinnacle of the sport. Think of a great fighter, any great fighter, and the probability is high that he or she came of age as competitors in one of the top 20 gyms in the world.
These places are not homogeneous, though. The environment at Kings MMA in Huntington Beach, Calif., is much different than Montreal’s Tristar or the Miami stylings of the Blackzilians or American Top Team. The techniques are different and so is the vibe. Kings MMA is an airy place filled with natural light, laid-back Southern California mixed with Curitiba, Brazil’s vale tudo intensity. Tristar feels industrial and efficient, with Firas Zahabi an omnipresent blur of professional motion. Some places operate like loose associations, with no real expectation that the people in the gym will be consistent from day to day; and others function like the more rigid organizations we see in other sports.
No one approach suits every fighter, and there is no single right way to train elite competitors. In this edition of the Sherdog Top 10 series, we take a look at some of the best teams in MMA. The staff panel voted on a number of criteria, including producing champions, elite fighters, the kind of support facilities they offer and their track record of building athletes from the very beginning of their careers:
Number 10 » Alliance MMA