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MMA Gyms & Training Camps 101

Here’s a quick guide on the ABC’s of MMA gyms and training camps. David Rothschild, SF MMA Examiner, put this quick guide together to help any aspiring mixed martial artists get started. Check it out:

If you’re a regular MMA viewer, you’ll certainly notice the same familiar faces in the corners of fighters during every event. Between rounds, when fighters search for both stategy and inspiration, you may hear the Yoda-like calm of Greg Jackson as he instructs GSP to go for the takedown, or the swear-laden speech from Nick Diaz as his brother heads into the third.

A small contingent of MMA training camps across the globe produces a large percentage of the best fighters out there. MMA Athletes like Anderson Silva, George St. Pierre and Brock Lesnar can all attest that they are only as good as their training camp. These MMA Gyms, grueling in work ethic and genius in fight strategy, guide fighters through the integral months before a fight.

Whether it’s as a boxing coach, grappling partner, or muay thai trainer, MMA camps equip their fighters with the myriad of combat skills neccesary for success. Some concentrate on unstoppable cardio conditioning and others on pinpoint precision technique. Many gyms have long histories and venerable trainers, while others are home to thirsty young competitors.

I’d like to take this opportunity to provide the ‘ABC’s’ of MMA camps across the globe. The list will feature the prominent trainers and fighters from each gym. To better quantify each camp’s strengths and weaknesses, I’ll also rate each gym in five cateogories on a scale from (1 to 5): Striking , Grappling, Cardio, Strategy, and Versatility. Because there are so many camps out there, I’ll also split this list into several consecutive posts in the upcoming days.

American Kickboxing Academy (San Jose, CA)

The American Kickboxing Academy (AKA), founded by Javier Mendez, has provided a staple of powerful UFC and MMA fighters over the past several years. Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Mike Swick are constant threats in the UFC welterweight division, and wrestler Cain Velasquez is currently making a run at the heavyweights. AKA is lead by a versatile and experienced training team, headlined by the combined years of experience between head trainers Javier Mendez, Bob Cook and Dave Camarillo.

Head Trainers: Dave Camarillo, Bob Cook, Javier Mendez.

Fighters: Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Paul Buentello, Mike Swick, Cung Le, Cain Velasquez, Josh Thomson, Billy Evangelista, Daniel Puder, Richard Crunkilton, Trevor Prangley, Christian Wellisch, Bobby Southworth

Striking: 3 Grappling: 4 Cardio: 4 Strategy: 3 Versatility: 3

Blackhouse Gym (Rio De Genero, Brazil)

Although its existence is currently in question, the formerly known Black House gym has housed some of the most famed Brazilian MMA fighters out there, including current UFC champions Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida. The Black House’s combination of deadly strikers (Machida and Silva) and top of the line grapplers (Noguiera brothers, Galvao, Filho) makes them a force to be reckoned with.

Head Manager Ed Soares has indicated that the team may have made a move to a new training facility out of LA. Rebranding of the gym also seems to be a real possibility.

Trainers: Rogerio Camoes and Sylvio Behring

Fighters: Anderson Silva, Glover Teixeira, Junior Dos Santos, Lyoto Machida, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Paulo Filho, Andre Galvao, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Chase Gormley

Striking: 5 Grappling: 5 Cardio: 3 Strategy: 3 Versatility: 4

Cesar Gracie Academy (Pleasant Hill, CA)

Cesar was the 2nd Gracie in North America to open a training facility. Cesar Gracie Academy trains a handful of prominent jiu jitsu fighters in various MMA organizations, including Strikeforce’s welterweight champion and middleweight contender Jake Shields. Many Gracie fighters have a deep base in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well as a strong background in wrestling.

Many Gracie fighters have gone on to form their own gyms around the Bay Area, including the Shields-Gracie Fighter Academy in Berkeley, Bret Bergmark’s Gym 445 in San Francisco and Gilbert Melendez’s El Nino Training Center in San Francisco.

Head Trainers: Cesar Gracie

Fighters: Jake Shields, Bret Bergmark, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, David Terrell, Gil Castillo

Striking: 3 Grappling: 5 Cardio: 4 Strategy: 3 Versatility: 4

  • Jon says:

    I am looking for some info. I want some places in the greater Kansas city area to learn from. I have never fought in mma. I am looking for some beginner training places/ classes. I cant find any real defined beginner class, or instruction. Any advice? I am ready to become dedicated to the art. Soak it in, get beat up and learn as much as I can

  • Joe says:

    Hi, I’m looking to begin my career in MMA I have boxing, wrestling, and sporadic mixed martial arts training under my belt. Looking for someone to give me a chance to show my dedication, heart, discipline, and hunger to compete. I know this sport is not for everyone, though it flows in my blood, in my mind and in heart I just know with the right training & guidance i will excel to heights I am capable of. so please if you are interested contact me via email. thank you for your time.

  • alexander leon says:

    Hi, my name is alexander, im 14 and im interested in the UFC and MMA but i cannot find any gyms or training places in my area to help my dream of becoming in the UFC if its not an inconvience can someone please answer some questions for me?
    where in my area would i be able to start training?
    how can i get stronger?
    can i have a routine for training

    thank you,

  • Ronald says:

    My name is ron and i am looking for any kind of martial arts classes in the mcalester, oklahoma area i am in dire need of some help… I am sick of the body i have i want to become fit again and fast so if you know about anything please contact me

  • David says:

    I have to move to the rio grande valley which is down in south Texas and I wanted to know if you could find out the best school for me. I wouldn’t like to be training at a gym which isn’t good or doesnt have a good program thanks.

  • droc says:


    Check our link specifically for the Rio Grande Valley:

  • Joyce says:

    I am interested in strength and technique training in Muay Thai and kickboxing. I am an overweight 50+ year old female and am trying to change my lifestyle and regain some vitality. Any suggestions on a training location in Las Vegas??

  • Mario fast says:

    Hi my name is mario and I want know if there is a gym near me and I deticate my life to mma

  • Miguel says:

    Hi july name is Miguel and I want to get started. I have no experience but I want to be an MMA fighter, so I am looking to have some questions answered about where I could get started with training.

  • Dalton says:

    Hi, My name is Dalton and im 15 years old and I am willing to work up to the UFC. Where is the best place in iowa to start training, I will do anything to get my self into the cage.

  • Kat says:

    Hi my name is Kat and I am looking for an all women’s mma gym near me. I am lookin to train for fitness and not competition.
    I live in California in the city of rosemead.

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