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Rankings Spotlight: MMA’s Top 5 Fight Gyms

(Obviously the body of a man with a severe testosterone deficiency. Pic: Team Quest)

This is a tricky thing, trying to rank the best fight camps in mixed martial arts. With so many top level fighters constantly on the move and the teams themselves ceaselessly forging, then breaking alliances with the speed and bitterness of your average Tito-Jenna Twitter spat, it’s hard to keep it all straight in your head. Take welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, for instance. Obviously a feather in the cap for any MMA gym, but how do we consider GSP – the prototypical camp-jumper — for the purposes of our precious little lists? Is he a Team Jackson guy? A TriStar guy? A (*snort*) Freddie Roach guy? Hard to know. Still, in the face of this uncertainty we soldier on. Why? Because of our commitment to you, P-Nation. And our commitment to making you mad with our off-base picks

Ben Goldstein:

1. Jackson’s MMA: Greg Jackson’s sterling reputation as a strategist and motivator is well-earned. That’s evident in the champions he trains (Georges St. Pierre, Jon Jones), the long list of UFC contenders he’s nurtured (Diego Sanchez, Rashad Evans, Clay Guida, Carlos Condit, Melvin Guillard, to name a few), and all the other stars who continue to make pilgrimages to his camp to see if the hype is for real. Jackson’s focus on the mental aspects of fighting has translated to top-level success for his fighters, year after year.

2. Black House: Recent losses by Rafael Cavalcante and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (as well as Lyoto Machida‘s recent skid) have taken a bit of the shine off this home-away-from-home for Ed Soares’s stable of Brazilians. But we’re still talking about a crew that features two unbeatable UFC champions (Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo) as well as a future heavyweight champ in Junior Dos Santos.

3. Team Cesar Gracie: The Skrap Pack currently holds two of Strikeforce’s title belts (Nick Diaz at welterweight, Gilbert Melendez at lightweight) and will be gunning for a UFC strap at the end of the month (former Strikeforce champ Jake Shields). While the tight-knit gang has no qualms about gang-stomping a rival on national television, Nick Diaz recently said that fighting a teammate is a disgusting thought. Take that, Team Jackson.

4. Team Alpha Male: The definition of “small but mighty.” Alpha Male’s collection of dynamic 155-and-under contenders includes the likes of Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes, Danny Castillo, and Miesha Tate — all of them forces in their respective divisions, and all riding impressive win streaks.

5. Golden Glory: With two exciting Strikeforce champions (Alistair Overeem, Marloes Coenen) and a pantheon of K-1 stars including four-time World Grand Prix champion Semmy Schilt, they’re the most compelling international team in my opinion. All they need is a few more visible MMA contenders in the UFC and Strikeforce, and they’ll start to get their due respect in this country.

Mike Russell:

1. Jackson’s MMA: It’s almost unfair to other gyms to look at Team Jackson as a camp considering it’s really a conglomerate that includes Jackson’s MMA, Team Zahabi and Team Grudge, but it’s hard to argue that the Greg Jackson-helmed MMA Dream Team isn’t the best in the game. Besides UFC champs Georges St. Pierre and Jon Jones, the team has contributed to the success of countless contenders and former title holders like Diego Sanchez, Carlos Condit, Rashad Evans and Clay Guida, making it the go-to destination for fighters looking to rebuild their sagging careers.

2. Black House: Even if Team Black House was just Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo, it would still be in the top ten, if not the top five list of MMA gyms. Add Junior Dos Santos, Lyoto Machida and Rafael Cavalcante to the mix and you have a team that rivals Jackson’s. Personally, we’d like to see both teams square off in a one night Kumite, but finding an athletic commission to sanction the tournament has proven to be a challenge.

3. Golden Glory: One of the most underrated teams in the game, Golden Glory is like the Gary Oldman of MMA. They always put in solid performances, yet still don’t get the respect they deserve. With one DREAM and two Strikeforce belts in the trophy case of their Netherlands-based gym besides countless K-1 and kickboxing titles, various members Team Golden Glory have told me that the goal for 2011 is for the camp to become more well known in North America. With fighters like Alistair Overeem, Marloes Coenen, Siyar Bahadurada, Gokhan Saki, Jon Olav Einemo and Sergei Kharitonov fighting under the GG banner, it’s likely that their goal could come to fruition, especially with the Zuffa marketing machine behind them.

4.Team Cesar Gracie: If Jake Shields can manage to pull off an upset over GSP at UFC 129, Team Cesar Gracie’s position on this list would improve by at least one level. With two Strikeforce champions in Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez and a scrappy moneyweight fighter in Nate Diaz, the camp has a ton of talent in the training room on any given day — all of whom have the potential to beat almost anyone in their respective divisions.

5. American Kickboxing Academy: Even if you aren’t a fan of AKA’s takedown-heavy style of fighting, you have to its members credit for constantly being ranked in the top ten rankings. Cain Velasquez is a beast who just made quick work of a much bigger opponent to win the UFC heavyweight strap. Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch have rarely slipped out of the welterweight top five. Add to the mix a handful of prospects like Mike Swick, Daniel Cormier, Josh Thomson and Mike Kyle and it’s tough to justify putting another camp in AKA’s place on this list.

Chad Dundas:

1. Black House: Since a lot of the key members seem to do the bulk of their training elsewhere, Black House feels more like a lifestyle than an actual fight gym. But since that lifestyle assumedly includes copious amounts of weed, video games and being the baddest motherfuckers on the planet, I gotta give them the top spot. With two of MMA’s most untouchable champs on the roster and a supporting cast like JDS, the Nogs, Feijao and Machida, it’s hard to fuck with Ed Soares’ Home for Wayward Boys.

2. Greg Jackson MMA: I agree that if we included everyone from this “conglomerate” Jackson’s would be a clear cut No.1, but that seems a little unfair to me. Camps like Grudge and TriStar ought to stand on their own in an exhibition like this one, don’t you think? Still, even when limited to the guys he has in the gym more or less every day – Jones, Guillard, Sanchez, Condit, Guida, Stevenson, Donald Cerrone, et. al. – it’s still very, very impressive.

3. Team Cesar Gracie: I was all set to rank the Skrappers like No. 5 on my list, but when I really considered how impressive it is that up until recently they controlled nearly every active title in Strikeforce and have an upcoming chance at UFC gold, I just couldn’t do it. I have no idea how Cesar Gracie stays on top of these misfits – except, I assume with a ball bat and megaphone like that dude from “Lean on Me” – but whatever he’s doing, shit works.

4. AKA: Top to bottom, AKA may have the most impressive roster in the sport, but (with the obvious exception of Velasquez) their inability to grab the brass ring is a major limiting factor. Any time one of their dudes climbs in the cage though, you know exactly what you’re going to get and (if your name’s not GSP) it’s usually a long, tough night.

5. Xtreme Couture: No love for The Old Man, huh? Well, I’ll see your lists of unpronounceable Golden Glory fighters and raise you: Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard, Martin Kampmann, Gina Carano, Vitor Belfort, Evan Dunham, Jay Heiron, Mike Pyle, Tyson Griffin and Amir Saddollah. I think you see my point.

Cagepotato Comments

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TheRealMrBeefy- April 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm
Yeah, I think that's Chael...If not whoever it is, is doing an awesome job!

Your the man Chael!, keep ripping them down, beating up and you'll be the champ soon enough.

I can't wait till you get back. It will be free game for anyone who wants to get Ground'N'Pounded!!!

Chael_Sonnen- April 8, 2011 at 8:23 am
@Sho-bum, Again even with the translation, it took awhile to decipher, maybe you should replace your translator with an iphone app. I was the last EVER WEC CHAMPION, y'idiot and if ya ever see your buddy Paulo, tell 'em he still hasn't mailed me that belt. Listen, punk. If you ever see me out onna stroll, keep your eyes to the curb or I'll take my boot off and beat ya with it; like Ike did Tina. Maybe you should focus on winning a fight, before you start calling out the number. 1 Middleweight in the business. If you ever wanna make the drop, get ready to lose, and after that Uncle Dana is gonna ship you off to Strikeforce, where you can go back to beating bums, like you did in Japan ya dummy. You're a walking punchline. Go fight what's left of Lil' Nog in an alley behind your slum in Curitiba, for 10 'real' apiece. After that take two weeks off, evaluate your career; then quit!
Travelinron- April 7, 2011 at 7:21 pm
I'm pretty sure Gilbert farted on Matt Lindland. How else can you explain the look on Lindland's face?
Shogun Rua- April 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm
Tenho a honra de tocar, para não fingir como você faz. Você bate a triângulos com tanta freqüência, eu começo a me perguntar se você gosta de ter as coxas mens outros envolvidos em torno de sua cabeça. É melhor ter sido um campeão, uma vez que nunca - e você nunca foi um campeão. Você me traiu, e ainda assim você perdeu. Se 205 é uma piada, porque você não voltar para cima e ver como se faz? Tenho certeza Babalu seria mais do que feliz em recebê-lo novamente. Bata-me? O único brasileiro que você derrotou era louco e não lutar para trás, e você não poderia mesmo acabar com ele. Sempre a dama de honra, Chael, talvez isso explique porque você está tão amargo - você não pode ganhar com seus punhos, para que você tente lutar com as palavras. Como é triste.
Amor e futebol chutes, Shogun
Titos Head- April 7, 2011 at 12:41 pm
lol @ Chael..if thats not sure as hell sounds like him.
EDoggFunkMonk- April 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm
Who is the guy next to Chael? he looks like he has a severe charisma deficiency.
Chael_Sonnen- April 7, 2011 at 11:56 am
@Sho-bum Rua That comment of yours took awhile to decipher,(even with the translation) maybe you typed better before Jones made you tap to STRIKES. If all you Brazilians spoke like that, no wonder you have to hire Soares to ''tidy it up.'' Yeah, Urijah Faber, and Chad Mendes would weigh roughly about the size of my balls, good call. Anyway, the 205lb division is a joke, didn't they have a karate guy as their champ? Oh yeah, he BEAT you. I put Anderson out for a year, I'll put you out for a decade. So, if ya ever wanna visit a town called Middleweight; there's a new sheriff, start jogging. And if you ever to decide to make that 'visit' you better get ready to take a stroll, because if you ever get in the cage with me, Dana's gonna ask you to take your shoes for a walk... So a word to the UNWISE, DON'T TALK ABOUT ME! You don't have the words, I DO. You just got buried, now run along or I'll do worse tomorrow.
IsnappedYourarm- April 7, 2011 at 7:42 am
Sonnen vs Maia was on Spike last night. If anyone doubts the effectiveness of roids compare the picture at the top to the Chael in the Maia fight. It sucks that they don't have some drug you can take to escape triangle chokes.
rcj5019- April 7, 2011 at 7:10 am
Glad someone appreciated it djp
O Chan- April 7, 2011 at 5:38 am
No love fore Renzo's, huh? I mean, Ken-Flo, GSP, Serra, Frankie Edgar, Big Dog, are a bunch of chumps.

Guess Danaher isn't really worth mentioning either.
mt59801- April 7, 2011 at 3:06 am
top team? if you look at them as one global team not the individual gyms they belong on this list
ghostboner- April 6, 2011 at 10:44 pm
Golden Glory is ranked too high? I think the Scrap Pack is ranked too high. And by high, I mean high.
djp1988- April 6, 2011 at 8:46 pm
I am dumbfounded that Roy Nelson's basement isn't on this list.
LOKI- April 6, 2011 at 7:51 pm
To paraphrase Sir Wesley of Snipes; "Always bet on Black House!"
Leaving aside the fact that the only time a GJ fighter fought a Black House fighter Rashad woke up and left the camp; did you bitches forget that the Glimmer Man is teaching them super secret teep of doom stylie techniques?
rcj5019- April 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm


Chael_Sonnen, you have no respect.

His obvious distaste of Brazil's why I'm posting out of retirement to tell you you're a fool. You say that Team Alpha males are very small? So I think they are the perfect match for your balls to be! You were not so mad when my brother called out Wanderlei car, not bad ass when the man who has sex with mothers Anderson was shaking the empty head of his magnificent and elegant legs, until he played like the bitch you are. I'll cut you like wheat in autumn? Bitch, please. I'll cut you like Keith Kizer mowed your bullshit at the last hearing.

PS Do not think that we forget the tattoo on her ass saying "Property of Jeremy Horn.

Love and soccer kicks, Shogun.
ReX13- April 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm
Chael_Sonnen, you have no respect.
His obvious distaste of Brazil's why I'm posting out of retirement to tell you you're a fool. You say that Team Alpha males are very small? So I think they are the perfect match for your balls to be! You were not so mad when my brother called out Wanderlei car, not bad ass when the man who has sex with mothers Anderson was shaking the empty head of his magnificent and elegant legs, until he played like the bitch you are. I'll cut you like wheat in autumn? Bitch, please. I'll cut you like Keith Kizer mowed your bullshit at the last hearing.
PS Do not think that we forget the tattoo on her ass saying "Property of Jeremy Horn.
Love and soccer kicks, Shogun.
rcj5019- April 6, 2011 at 7:08 pm
CZ your lame for knowing its called the country club.
rcj5019- April 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm
lol i love getting people all pissy, especially BG.
Tai-Pan- April 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm
Can u translate Shoguns statement like usual, fucking iPhone.
ReX13- April 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm
I love that Chael_Sonnen showed up, and Shogun Rua slays me everytime. LOL @ "Amor e futebol chutes"
CaptnJonesy- April 6, 2011 at 6:17 pm
Yeah Jackson's camp is nothing but wash-ups. Jon Jones is way over his prime
itsmontoya- April 6, 2011 at 6:03 pm
What Chad Dundas failed to realize is that Gina went to Team Jackson :D
Barry Mckockenner- April 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm
Chad Dundas list wins. That is all.
TheHulkSmash- April 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm
Dude. The story here is the Chael Sonnen looks like he weighs 235 pounds. Who gives about which gym is strongest, that dude pissed dirty and look at him. He's a fucking juicer. Yeah, I know they called it out in the caption, but a whole article on Chael's size was warranted here.
stopdrinkingpee- April 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm
First the bantamweights, now this. When did you motherfuckers get so reasonable?

I appreciate the love for Golden Glory, an often underrated gym, but I agree with others commentators that it seems a little high here. Just a little, though.