“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”. Oddly enough, in a sport predicated on individual achievement, Mixed Martial Arts has given birth to some of the most close-knit teams in all of sports.
The camps come in all shapes and sizes, from exclusive training facilities to gyms with an open training policy. No matter their membership clause, they all share one thing in common: success in combat.
The following is a list of the top five teams in MMA history, in no particular order:
The Lion’s Den
The original alpha males of the sport, Ken Shamrock’s ‘Lion’s Den’ was the first real MMA fight team, setting the format for others to follow. Born out of the need for competitive sparring partners, Shamrock’s team slowly grew into the elite of the sport (their infamous day-long try-outs were a sure way of weeding out the weak). Throughout the 90’s, Shamrock and his team dominated the sport worldwide, in events such as the UFC and Pancrase.
Big names: Ken and Frank Shamrock, Guy Mezger, Mikey Burnett, Jerry Bohlander, Vernon White.
Miletich Fighting Systems
Like Shamrock before him, ex-UFC welterweight champ Miletich initially began training fighters in an effort to produce good training partners. What resulted was a powerhouse of fighters based out of his hometown in Bettendorf, Iowa. Aspiring combatants worldwide would often make the pilgrimage, only to be sent home with more bruises and less teeth than they came with.
Miletich Fighting Systems reigned supreme in the UFC from the late 90’s to the mid 00’s, at one point holding the UFC welterweight and heavyweight titles simultaneously. MFS also became a team on the International Fight League, coached by Miletich himself.
Big names: Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Jeremy Horn, Jens Pulver.
Chute Boxe Academy
One look at Wanderlei Silva’s first fight with Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson in 2003 and it becomes clear why Chute Boxe was once one of the most feared camps in the sport. Initially a Muay Thai school founded by Rudimar Fedrigo, the program was later expanded to include the other components of modern MMA.
Chute Boxe fighters were renowned for their intense sparring sessions, which were often as demanding as the fights themselves. As a result, their extremely aggressive striking and physical styles tore through their native Brazil and Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships.
Big names: Wanderlei Silva, Maurico ‘Shogun’ Rua, Anderson Silva, Jose ‘Pele’ Landi-Jons.
Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts
Renowned for intricate game plans and dominant wrestling skills, Greg Jackson’s team has had great success since bursting onto the scene in the 00’s. The team from Albuquerque, New Mexico originally started in 1992 as an academy for Jackson’s ‘Gaidojutsu’, an eclectic style based on his own Martial Arts background.
Along with striking coach Mike Winkeljohn, the team has since become a force to be reckoned with in the UFC, fostering champions and top contenders alike. In 2009, the team held both the welterweight and light-heavyweight UFC belts simultaneously.
Big names: Georges St. Pierre, Rashad Evans, Shane Carwin, Nate Marquardt, Diego Sanchez.
The name says it all; the gym owned by former heavyweight and light-heavyweight UFC champ Randy Couture features a who’s who of MMA royalty. Couture first opened the gym in Las Vegas when he grew weary of travelling far to train with different coaches, which was the norm during the troubled years of the sport. Instead, he pooled all his MMA resources under one roof, hiring top coaches such as Ron Frazier (boxing), Neil Melanson (catch wrestling) and Jake Bonacci (strength and conditioning). Originally just one facility, the gym has since become a franchise across the US and Canada.
Big names: Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin, Gina Carano, Tyson Griffin, Frank Trigg.
Honourable mentions: American Kickboxing Academy, American Top Team, Black House, Brazilian Top Team, Gracie Family, Team Quest, Team Sityodtong, Tristar Gym.