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Top 10 MMA Gyms For Training

Courtesy of Tom Grant breaks down the MMA Gym power rankings based on depth in pro fighters, the quality of fighters and the quality of the coaches at the gym. An interesting assessment and definitely something worth keeping an eye on as you continue training for the big fight.

#1. Greg Jackson MMA/Tristar Gym

Greg Jackson umbrella has come over primarily three gyms: his own in New Mexico, Tristar Gym in Montreal, and High Altitude Martial Arts in Denver.

Jackson’s coaching ability has come under fire recently because of the massive struggles of his mid-level fighters with fixable stylist problems and the “boring nature” of his game plans.

That said, Jackson still has elite-level fighters that he find ways to improve and push on to greater heights and broader skill sets.

Also on the coaching staff is Tristar Gym’s striking coach Firas Zahabi, who helped Kenny Florian retool his striking after the BJ Penn loss and is now helping Miguel Torres get back on the winning track.

The top of Jackson MMA fighters has to start with UFC Champion and arguably best fighter in the world Georges St Pierre.

Quickly followed by UFC No.1 contenders Rashad Evan at light heavyweight and Shane Carwin at heavyweight.

Also on the contenders list is UFC welterweight Carlos Condit, UFC super prospect Jon Jones, and middleweight Nate Marquardt.

Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion “King Mo” Lawal spends time at Jackson’s with Rashad Evans, developing “the Cuban” style as well.

And then there is a bevy of veteran fighters that include names like Keith Jardine, Roger Huerta, Leonard Garcia, Donald Cerrone, David Loiseau, Joe Stevenson, Clay Guida, and Karo Parisyan that give this camp great depth.

Jackson’s alliance of gyms have had their recent struggles, but when its all said and done them emerge as the No.1 camp.

#2. American Top Team

We now are really getting into the insanely deep teams, and there is no team deeper in pro fighters than American Top Team.

Located in Coconut Creek, Florida there is just an insane number of high, high level fighters at this gym:

Mark Bocek, Mike Thomas Brown, Denis Kang, Hector Lombard, Cole Miller, Jorge Santiago, Dan Hornbuckle, Ben Saunders, Thiago Silva, and Thiago Alves to just name a very few of the pro fighters at ATT.

Now with all these fighters and contenders, the shocking thing is that they have been unable to capture a major title since Mike Thomas Brown lost his WEC belt.

Hector Lombard holds the Bellator middleweight belt and Jorge Santiago holds the Sengoku middleweight belt, but ATT has no current UFC, Strikeforce, WEC, or Dream champions.

ATT has no shortage of outstanding coaching.

Owner Ricardo Liborio is a fantastic BJJ black belt and has established one of the best BJJ programs of any gym in Coconut Creek.

Striking coaches Howard Davis Jr. for boxing and Chutiphat Runsgawang for Muay Thai are both excellent and bring a very high level of knowledge to training.

And wrestling coach Shawn Sheldon is a five-time Olympian, 17-time U.S. National Champion and a silver medalist at 1991 World Championships.

This is likely the best coaching staff in all of MMA and if this gym could get just one major promotion champion it would likely leap to No.1.

#3. American Kickboxing Academy

The American Kickboxing Academy has been the hot gym of late, producing possibly the best young heavyweight in the MMA in Cain Velasquez, the new TUF coach and latest challenger to GSP’s belt Josh Koscheck and the all-time UFC Wins leader, Jon Fitch.

AKA has become the destination for wrestlers looking to adapt their skills to MMA and it is largely because of their coaching staff.

Javier Mendez is the founder.

The lead striking coach is a two-time ISKA World Kickboxing Champion, and is helped by Jerome Turcan, Mike Sotelo, and Cung Le in striking coaching.

On the grappling side, AKA is the home of one of the great BJJ coaches, David Camarillo.

A high level judo player at age 14 under the tutelage of his father (a great judo coach), Camarillo earned his black belt in BJJ while he was in college and meshed the two arts into an amazingly effective grappling system.

In judo there is the “Dave Camarillio Rule,” which limits how fly submissions can be applied, and that pretty much says it all about him.

He has proven an excellent teacher and has helped the wrestlers that come to AKA not just accept BJJ but excel at it.

AKA is a great camp but its lack of depth and title holders keeps it out of the the top two right now.

#4. Blackhouse/Team Nogueira

A very strong collection of fighters, Blackhouse is an oddity among MMA gyms.

Organized under Ed Soares in L.A., it is an invite-only gym that has strong ties with Team Noguiera of Brazil as well as Nova Uniao.

A very loose collection of fighters make up the roster but there is a firm core of Anderson Silva, the Noguiera brothers, Lyoto Machida, Junior dos Santos, ‘Jacare’ Souza, and Andre Galvano.

A very impressive list of fighters that earned this gym top billing six months ago, but hard times have fallen on some of the fighters.

The Nog brothers are coming off less than inspiring performances; Big Nog off a KO loss, Little Nog a razor thin win over a fighter he should have beaten easily.

Machida suffered his first KO loss and let the title slip away.

Anderson Silva was less than great in his outing against Demian Maia and Galvano has been only seeing sparse action in Strikeforce.

But JDS is on the verge of title shot, “Jacare” is developing into an excellent middleweight and Diego Nunes pushed his record to 14-1 with his win at WEC 49.

The talent pool is very deep at this gym, but most of the fighters are off doing their own camps and rarely seem to run their camps together.

But this camp has the fighters to be No.1 if they can get back on track.

#5. Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

Cesar Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu Academy could just hang a banner over their school that reads “We Own Strikeforce!”

The current Strikeforce Lightweight, Welterweight and Middleweight Champions all train in Stockton with Cesar.

Aside from being champions, Gilbert Melenedz, Nick Diaz, and Jake Shields are likely the best fighters in their weight classes not in the UFC.

Nick’s brother Nate is currently a TUF veteran and UFC welterweight.

David Marshall is a young, hungry fighter at Cesar Gracie who has been piling up submission wins and will soon be looking for his shot in a larger promotion.

#6. Xtreme Couture

This Las Vegas-based gym had fallen on hard times but is beginning to rebound in a big way.

Gray Maynard, Jay Hieron, Vitor Belfort, Evan Dunham and Martin Kampmann all are in serious contention for title shots in their promotions.

Forrest Griffin, Frank Trigg, Mike Pyle, Amir Sadollah, Tyson Griffin, Todd Duffee and, of course, Randy Couture round out a very solid roster.

The grappling coaching at this gym is fantastic, going along with Randy Couture is three-time US National Wrestling Team member Brian Keck and Neil Melanson a well respected submission grappler combine to make this camp a grappler’s haven.

#7. Nova Uniao

Located in Nova Uniao, Brazil, this Jiu Jitsu gym has produced some truly great MMA fighters.

Founded by the great BJJ black belt Andre Pederneiras, Nova Uniao’s was the home of BJ Penn when he won his BJJ World Championship and his first UFC belt.

With a bevy of BJJ world champions, Uniao has translated outstanding jiu jitsu into MMA success; from Thales Leites to Vitor Ribeiro to Wagnney Fabiano their have been very successful fighters.

But the prize of the school is WEC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo and Pancrase and Sengoku Featherweight Champion Marlon Sandro.

Both are dangerous strikers.

Aldo has his blinding speed and Sandro, his sledgehammer power, and both have very good BJJ.

They could be the best two featherweights on the planet training at the same gym.

#8. Alliance MMA

Another California-based school, Alliance MMA is quickly becoming a superpower in the MMA world.

It is the home of UFC fighters Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Diego Sanchez, Joey Beltran, and Phil Davis.

The gym is also the current residence of the WEC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz and WEC lightweight contender Ed Ratcliff, Bellator season one runner-up Omar da la Cruz and Bellator light heavyweight Gary Padilla.

Again, not a lot in the way of big name coaches but it is certainly a rising power.

#9. Team Quest

An old stalwart gym that has fallen on rough times, Team Quest is still full of veterans.

Chael Sonnen is currently the gym’s most relevant and twitter-savvy member, but Dan Henderson is still the poster boy.

Sokoudjou, Krzysztof Soszynski, Ed Herman, Jesse Taylor and Matt Lindland are a solid list of veteran pro fighters along with Joe Warren, who is fighting in Bellator’s season two finals.

#10. Team Alpha-Male

This Sacramento based gym has been an absolute pipeline of talent for the WEC, lead by featherweight legend Urijah Faber.

Also calling Alpha-Male home is WEC veteran Danny “Last Call” Castillo, top WEC Featherweight prospect Chad Mendes, and the No.1 contender in the WEC bantamweight division, Joseph Benavidez.

What this gym lacks in big name coaches it makes up for in youth, hunger and talent.

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