You can be the most talented UFC prospect, but you’ll hardly reach title contention if you don’t train in some of the best MMA gyms in the world. You might get top 15 status, but defeating the best guys in the game demands hard work, skillful coaches, and an excellent team of training partners.
The difference between an average and a top-notch fighter is mostly – the training facility. Yes, you can be the champion from the small gym, but more than 80% of the top 15 athletes come from high-level gyms with a huge number of members. It’s time to get to know the top 5 best MMA gyms in the world.
Nova Uniao is the only name on our list of top 5 MMA gyms located outside of the USA. The Rio de Janeiro training facility is the home of some of the greatest non-American mixed martial artists in the world.
Led by Andre Pederneiras, Nova Uniao has been active in the world of MMA since 1995. It works in many locations all around South America – Manaus, Fortaleza, Santa Catarina (Brazil), Lima (Peru), Argentina. There are affiliates in many other states too.
Pederneiras is known for discovering high-level UFC prospects and building warriors from fighters with heartbreaking life stories. Jose Aldo, the all-time greatest featherweight Octagon fighter, had no money at all. Aldo didn’t eat for days too. But the academy is always ready to push forward and help everybody who intends to become the best.
This gym was having ups and downs, but they were always creating champions and UFC names. Popular fighters that made their first UFC steps in Nova Uniao are Claudia Gadelha, Thales Leites, Renan Barao, and Jussier Formiga. Their most famous names at the moment, alongside Jose “Junior” Aldo, are Matheus Nicolau, Lara Procopio, Muslim Salikhov, Leonardo Santos, and Poliana Botelho.
Jackson Wink MMA Academy
Jackson-Wink is known for the famous combination of top-notch striking coach Mike Winkeljohn and one of the greatest grappling/wrestling specialists to ever work with MMA fighters, Greg Jackson. These two coaches are a perfect match. They are experts in different areas of the game, which leads to high-level achievements.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jackson Wink pushed everything to the next level. Fighters can sleep, eat, or spend free time in the gym. For example, Juan Adams lived here for more than a year. A huge number of international fighters spend their weeks before the upcoming fight here.
Jackson-Wink MMA is the home of the former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, ex-UFC bantamweight queen Holly Holm, Carlos Condit, Michelle Waterson, Cub Swanson, Timur Valiev, Danaa Batgerel… Another UFC legend who trained here is the former two-division king BJ Penn.
This gym was created in 2017, under the name “Hard Knocks 365” in Deerfield Beach, Florida, by Greg Jones and Henri Hooft, but it was later renamed “Sanford MMA” in 2020. It was a relatively average gym until the reconstruction but the new facility led to many new training options.
Almost every single member of Hard Knocks 365 now trains at the new 10,000 square foot Sanford MMA facility. This gym deserved the spot on our list of top 5 MMA gyms thanks to world-class medical assistance for fighters and some of the most modern recovery training equipment.
The famous names who spend their hardest moments here are Gilbert Burns, Robbie Lawler, Derek Brunson, Vicente Luque, Michael Johnson, Takashi Sato, Martin Nguyen, Impa Kasanganay…
The most dominant welterweight Kamaru Usman was a member of this gym until 2020, but he was forced to switch his training facility due to a title bout against “Durinho” Burns. It is also the home of the former UFC champ (now PFL fighter) Rory MacDonald and numerous Bellator MMA fighters.
American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)
The legendary coach Javier Mendez kicked off his martial arts coaching dream with a kickboxing gym back in the 1980s, but the popularity of MMA exploded in the mid-90s, so the facility switched to MMA. In the first place, UFC names were coming to San Jose, California to work on the striking aspect of the game.
For example, Frank Shamrock, predominantly wrestler, significantly improved his punches and leg kicks here. This gym is known for some of the greatest striking improvements. The majority of Dagestani wrestlers were turned into striking phenoms here – Khabib Nurmagomedov, Ruslan Magomedov, Zubaira Tukhugov… AKA is a synonym for “guaranteed improvement of your stand-up techniques and combos”.
Other famous names who train at American Kickboxing Academy are Enrique Barzola, Blagoy Ivanov, Dwight Grant, Nohelin Hernandez, Germaine de Randamie, Luis Pena, Luke Rockhold, Bethe Correia… It was also the facility of the first-ever Mexican UFC champ Cain Velasquez and the ex-two-division titleholder Daniel “DC” Cormier.
American Top Team (ATT)
ATT was founded by the former fighter Dan Lambert in 2001, and it was an average gym over the first few years of its existence. But nowadays, the American Top Team is on the #1 spot of our top 5 MMA gyms’ list, with a huge number of training facilities and more than 40 affiliates all around the globe. The current head coach is Conan Silveira.
For example, ATT Zagreb is the home of the best Balkan Peninsula fighters. There are gyms in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and all around the United States of America.
Many big names are training at American Top Team at the moment – Dustin Poirier, Alexandre Pantoja, Edson Barboza, the first-ever female two-division champion Amanda Nunes, Andrei Arlovski, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Chris Gruetzemacher, Renato Moicano, Thiago Moises, Matt Schnell, Yoel Romero, Amanda Ribas, Juan Espino…
ATT was the home of many former UFC legends – Tyron Woodley, Mark Hunt, Gleison Tibau (the only guy who nearly beat Khabib Nurmagomedov). You can also see big Bellator names Douglas Lima and Kyoji Horiguchi here.
Dan Lambert is a perfect example of a man who followed his dreams and created one of the most powerful brands in the world of MMA.
MMA is growing rapidly. Many former UFC legends and champs are opening their dojos, working hard on the promotion, so this list might change in the years to come. What do you think, which are the top 5 MMA gyms in the world? Please leave us comments in the section below!