I made a conscious decision early in my career to never train with fighters in my own weight class. That decision has been one of the best moves I ever made.
The MMA community, especially here in Southern California, is incredibly small and you will, at one point, likely fight someone you know. I see it happen all the time and I didn't want to be faced with having to fight someone I have trained with.
A lot of people consider MMA a team sport, even though technically it's not. The guys and girls you train with in the gym are your teammates and family, and having to fight one of them isn't ideal. There's emotions involved, not to mention they already know all your tricks.
The thing that a lot of people don't realize is that the weight class doesn't really matter, neither does the skill set when you are training. Every single training partner has something to offer, even if they are at a lower level. One might help you practice movement or striking, or your takedown defense. No matter what, you will learn something.
My main training partner is a girl – Marylin Petrov and there's obviously no chance of us ever fighting.
I think the only time you are you should train with someone in your weight class is when you have an agreement from the get-go that you will fight if it comes down to it. I have seen too many fighters turn down paychecks just because they didn't want to fight a friend or teammate.
My boy, Tommy Aaron, and I say all the time that we'll never fight — unless it's for a grip of money and then we might consider it.
I think gyms like #TeamAlphaMale, who seem to cater the the smaller weight classes, are doing it wrong. We've all seen them turn down fights because of team loyalties, how can you make a career that way?
For now, this works for me. Why change up something that is working?