ByElias Cepeda, writer at Creators.co
Elias Cepeda

The sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) is truly a global one, with some of the largest and most successful fight teams spanning the entire planet. Below is our 18-team listing of the most successful MMA camps in the world.

Rio, Vegas, Southern California, Dublin, Tokyo, Montreal, and New York are all represented. Read on, learn more, and let us know which team is your favorite!

Nova Uniao

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Head coach:

  • Andre Pederneiras

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

  • Few teams combine Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai as well as Nova Uniao does. That goes back to Pederneiras cross-training with the likes of former UFC stars and Muay Thai specialists Marco Ruas and Pedro Rizzo and having them train his largely Brazilian jiu-jitsu based team members.
  • Nova Uniao fighters like also boast some of the best defensive wrestling in the sport.

  • Nova Uniao fighters, especially those in lighter weight classes, have a wealth of sparring partner options in this space-tight but talent-rich environment.
  • Nova Uniao fighters, many who have come from extreme poverty in Brazil’s favelas, are as mentally strong and tough as it comes, and iron certainly sharpens iron, here.

Roufusport

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee, WI, USA

Notable Coaches:

  • Duke Roufus
  • Scott Cushman
  • Anthony Pettis

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

  • All the bodies and elite sparring partners of a “mega-gym” but with the detailed, expert coaching from striking expert and gym head Duke Roufus and his deep staff.
  • Some of the best Midwestern regional talent gets groomed at Roufusport, as well as established international elite from all over the globe.

American Kickboxing Academy

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports
Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose, CA, USA

Notable Coaches:

  • Javier Mendez
  • Bob Cook

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

  • The American Kickboxing Academy has a a peerless record of teaching fighters from all backgrounds how to become elite strikers, and their reputation for being well-conditioned is well-founded.
  • In addition to head coach Mendez, AKA benefits from a plethora of player/coaches like captain Cormier, Velasquez and Luke Rockhold, who all take leadership roles in running practices and mentoring other fighters.

Team Alpha Male

Sacramento, CA, USA

Notable Coaches:

  • Justin Buchholz
  • Danny Castillo
  • Chris Holdsworth
  • Thonglor Armatsena

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

  • Wrestling
  • Lower weight class focus
  • Conditioning
  • Ample elite sparring partners

Jackson/Winkeljohn

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports
Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Albuquerque, NM, USA

Notable Coaches:

  • Greg Jackson
  • Mike Winkeljohn
  • Brandon Gibson
  • Izzy Martinez

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

  • Bodies on bodies (sparring partners).
  • Natural altitude in Albuquerque which helps give Jackson/Wink athletes conditioning advantages over their opponents.
  • Mike Winkeljohn, who brings many years of his own fighting experience to a one-on-one, involved coaching style.

Black House MMA

Redondo Beach, CA, USA

Head Coach:

  • Kenny Johnson

Notable Fighters:

  • Anderson Silva
  • Lyoto Machida
  • Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira
  • Antonio Rogerio “Minotoro” Nogueira
  • Alan Jouban
  • Brian Ortega
  • Justine Kish
  • Kevin Casey

Strengths:

  • Kenny Johnson has had great success improving fighters’ wrestling.
  • Private, invite-only environment away from prying eyes and gossiping voices.
  • Elite sparring partners and large network of associates to get work in with.

RVCA Sport Training Center

Costa Mesa, CA, USA

Head Coach:

  • Jason Parillo

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

  • Parillo may be the most successful “old school” trainer in modern MMA. He works very closely with a select few, closely monitors every aspect of their development and has coached at least five UFC world champions in his years heading up RVCA’s private fight shop.
  • Parillo brings together some of the best fighting talent from many different teams in the talent-rich Southern California area for regular sparring and practices.
  • Private atmosphere and strictly elite company because the gym is not open to the public.

Tristar Gym

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Head Coach:

  • Firas Zahabi

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

  • Firas Zahabi is one of the most well-rounded martial artists in the world
  • Zahabi gives his fighters individual attention and leads the way with sparring and drilling, gearing up and banging with the best in the world, demonstrating his knowledge and earning their respect.
  • Affordable fighter dorms make it easy for visiting athletes to live the fighting lifestyle.

American Top Team

Coconut Creek, FL, USA

Notable Coaches:

  • Ricardo Liborio
  • “Conan” Silveira
  • Mike Brown
  • Din Thomas
  • Kamir Barzini
  • Steve Mocco

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

  • More UFC-level fighters than any other team on the planet occupy this South Florida giant gym.
  • Good organization and oversight of all fighters’ progress and programs by co-founder “Conan” Silveira.
  • Many experienced coaches for fighters to choose from and find the right fit with.
  • Quite possibly the most active and experienced staff of former fighter coaches including former world featherweight champion Mike Brown and former longtime top lightweight contender Din Thomas.
  • Elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu mixed in with top-level wrestling and striking.
  • Large community with many fighters sharing living expenses and also boarding rooms for visiting athletes to focus on their training.

AACC

Tokyo, Japan

Head Coach:

Hiroyuki AbeAni Abe

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

The AbeAni brothers lead this elite Tokyo academy based on strong catch wrestling. Some of the best female fighters in history have come from AACC but the team has also filled top amateur and pro male ranks.

Evolve MMA

Singapore

Head Coaches:

  • Heath Sims
  • Nong-O Gaiyanghadao
  • Daorung Sityodtong

Notable Fighters:

  • Shinya Aoki
  • Ben Askren
  • Rafael Dos Anjos
  • Angela Lee
  • Roger Gracie
  • Michelle Nicolini

Strengths:

  • Scores of elite Muay Thai fighters and coaches as instructors
  • Elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners as coaches
  • An international melting pot with great and varied fighters from around the world regularly training at this Singapore mega-gym
  • Business connection to top Asian promotion ONE, so association with Evolve team often creates fight opportunities

Syndicate MMA

Notable Coaches:

  • John Wood
  • Tom Lawlor

Notable Fighters:

  • Tom Lawlor
  • Amir Sadollah
  • Roxanne Modafferi
  • Mike Pyle
  • Khalil Rountree
  • Cory Hendricks
  • Jamie Moyle

Strengths:

  • We’ve always heard that head coach John Wood cares about his fighters and has a great mind for putting things together as a coach.
  • Lots of quality fighters at many different weight classes inside the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas.

Straight Blast Gym, Ireland

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Dublin, Ireland

Notable Coaches:

  • John Kavanagh
  • Owen Roddy
  • Paddy Holohan

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

  • Experienced former fighters as coaches, still young enough to get in there and mix it up with fighters
  • Wealth of training partners

Elevation Fight Team

Denver, CO, USA

Notable Coaches:

Leister Bowling

Eliot Marshall

Notable Fighters:

  • TJ Dillashaw
  • Matt Brown
  • Neil Magny
  • Curtis Blaydes
  • Brandon Thatch

Strengths:

  • As their name suggests, this Denver team trains at a high altitude, helping their conditioning greatly.
  • Well-funded team with many top team members receiving salaries from supplement company MusclePharm simply to train there.

The MMA Lab

Notable Coaches:

  • John Crouch
  • Shane Dalton

Notable Fighters:

  • Benson Henderson
  • Joe Riggs
  • Jamie Varner
  • John Moraga
  • Yaotzin Meza
  • Jon Tuck
  • Efrain Escudero
  • Alex Contreras
  • Mackenzie Dern

Strengths:

  • A team full of veteran coaches and teammates has dealt with everything there is to deal with in the sport.
  • Many top fighters available at both the amateur and pro ranks to help challenge one another.

Alliance Training Center

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Chula Vista, CA, USA

Head Coach:

  • Eric Del Fierro

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

Alliance fighters often learn some crafty footwork and learn to set up their takedowns with strikes quite well.

Ever been to San Diego? Yeah, it's dope. Any camp based out of San Diego has a leg up over most other places for location alone.

Kings MMA

Huntington Beach, CA, USA

Head Coach:

  • Rafael Cordeiro

Notable Fighters:

Strengths:

  • Cordeiro is a phenomenal Muay Thai practitioner who still spars with his much younger students
  • Cordeiro has some of the most extensive high-level MMA coaching and cornering experience in the game
  • Many elite athletes come from all over the world to train at Kings MMA, making sparring partners plentiful

Renzo Gracie Academy/Lineage

NY & NJ, USA

Given how gigantic and prolific the Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA legend's Manhattan academy alone is, it is hard not to list it as its own top school. At the same time, some of Gracie's best students and fighters like Matt Serra (who has teamed with striking coach Ray Longo) and Ricardo Almeida have long gone on to start their own insanely successful affiliated teams.

Taken together, Renzo Gracie's academy (and even he alone has more than one in New York and New Jersey) and those of his top students have produced many world-class fighters and champions. Let's put things into quick perspective - Renzo himself has beaten many UFC world champions. His students like Matt Serra and Ricardo Almeida have become champions, and now have produced their own world champions like Chris Weidman and Frankie Edgar. What's more, Renzo and his student and Manhattan lead instructor John Danaher played a crucial role in Georges St-Pierre's GOAT welterweight career.

Notable Coaches Affiliated with Renzo's Lineage:

Notable Fighters Affiliated with Renzo's Lineage:

Strengths:

  • Technical and innovative Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
  • An emphasis on learning whatever works, from any style of fighting.
  • An almost unmatched network of high-level associates, affiliates, and friends for Renzo lineage students to train with.

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