How the Top MMA Camps Fare in UFC Title Fights

Sean SmithAnalyst IApril 30, 2013

Apr 21, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jon Jones poses with his crew after beating Rashad Evans in the main event and light heavyweight title bout during UFC 145 at Philips Arena. Jon Jones won the bout by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Jones has become one of the best pound-for-pound MMA fighters in the world. At UFC 159, the light heavyweight champion tied the 205-pound record for consecutive title defenses by beating Chael Sonnen somewhat easily.

While Jones excels individually, he is also a member of a top MMA camp. Even before Jones began training with the team, Jackson's MMA had become one of the most recognizable gyms in the sport under head coach Greg Jackson.

Many of the world's best MMA fighters have flocked to the camp with a steel-sharpens-steel mentality. Does training at one of these super camps really give a fighter the best chance at reaching the top of their division, though?

Let's take a look at how some of today's most notable fight teams have fared in UFC title fights.


Jackson's MMA

From John Dodson at 125 pounds to Frank Mir in the heavyweight class, Jackson's MMA is home to serious contenders in every UFC division. Even with excellent talent spread throughout the organization, though, Jackson's MMA has not been able to produce a second dominant champion to complement Jones.

Rashad Evans, Carlos Condit and Shane Carwin were able to capture UFC gold with help from Jackson's MMA. However, none of them were able to defend their belts, and Evans was the only one in the group that could be called undisputed champion.

Jackson's MMA has also seen a number of challengers leave championship bouts empty-handed. Dodson, Diego Sanchez and Nate Marquardt all failed to win titles despite earning themselves title shots. 

 While the team is home to countless noteworthy fighters, Jackson's MMA doesn't seem possess the resources to be able to provide all of its students with the instruction needed to reach the top.

If you're a once-in-a-lifetime athlete like Jones, Jackson's MMA might be the place for you. Though, with all the big personalities in one gym, a lot of other highly skilled individuals who train there may not be getting the same level of attention they could receive elsewhere.


American Kickboxing Academy

Home to the current UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, American Kickboxing Academy has made a habit of turning wrestlers into well-rounded fighters.

Although Velasquez is the only champion to come out of the gym, AKA has also produced multiple title challengers. Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck both came up short in their attempts to snatch UFC gold, but their success is further proof that AKA is a great destination for collegiate wrestlers looking to break into mixed martial arts.

In the near future, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold, Gray Maynard and others could represent AKA in UFC championship bouts.


Team Nogueira

Team Nogueira has become one of the strongest MMA camps in Brazil.

Middleweight titleholder Anderson Silva, who has gone undefeated in 11 UFC championship bouts, regularly trains with Team Nogueira.

The group's leader, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, is a former interim UFC heavyweight champion who appeared in two title fights inside the Octagon.

Junior dos Santos has also worked with the Nogueira brothers frequently in his rise to the top of the heavyweight division. Although he recently lost his belt to Velasquez, Dos Santos is 2-1 in UFC title fights and is sure to appear in more championship bouts down the road. 


Tristar Gym

Georges St-Pierre has put Tristar Gym on the map, but he remains the only fighter from that camp to ever win a UFC championship.

Kenny Florian, Patrick Cote and David Loiseau have all worked with Firas Zahabi at Tristar Gym, but each came up short in his attempts to win UFC title fights.

Even if he has to wait for St-Pierre to step aside, Rory MacDonald does provide the gym with a bright future. 



Benson Henderson is perhaps the best example of what a fighter can accomplish without practicing his craft at a gym packed with all-stars.

While former WEC champion Jamie Varner and TUF winner Efrain Escudero do work with Henderson at the MMA Lab, there are few other big names that have come out of the Arizona-based gym.

Undefeated in four UFC title fights, Henderson is the only MMA Lab member to compete for a UFC championship thus far.


Nova Uniao

The only camp that currently houses multiple UFC titleholders is Nova Uniao.

Jose Aldo has become the face of the team, already defending his UFC featherweight championship on four occasions. As a training partner, Aldo has also helped shape one of the best bantamweights in MMA.

With one interim bantamweight title defense already under his belt, Renan Barao may finally get a shot at Dominick Cruz if he can beat Eddie Wineland at UFC 161.

Nova Uniao founder Andre Pederneiras competed in a UFC title fight himself in July 1999, when he lost to Pat Miletich.


Alliance MMA

Although Dominick Cruz is the only Alliance MMA fighter to compete for a UFC title, it is only a matter of time until another member from that crowded camp breaks through.

For now, though, Cruz will carry the flag as a winner of three UFC title fights.

Phil Davis, Mike Easton, and more from Alliance MMA are considered contenders in their divisions and have the ability to earn title shots within the next couple years.


AMC Pankration 

Headed by flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, AMC Pankration is quietly becoming one of the strongest MMA camps out there.

In addition to Johnson, who has gone undefeated since the introduction of a UFC flyweight division, AMC Pankration is home to middleweight contender Tim Boetsch and surging welterweight Matt Brown.

"Mighty Mouse" did lose one UFC title fight at bantamweight, but he's looked tough to beat since being able to compete at a more natural weight of 125 pounds.


Other Camps

Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Team Alpha Male and Team Quest are among the other major camps who have had multiple shots at UFC championships.

Only partially associated with the team, Ronda Rousey is the only fighter to train with Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu prior to winning UFC gold. Gilbert Melendez, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Jake Shields and David Terrell all came up short in championship bouts inside the Octagon despite working with Gracie.

Though they've only been on the UFC roster a short time, the members of Team Alpha Male have already tasted multiple defeats in UFC title fights. Urijah Faber has missed out on two opportunities to become a UFC champion, while Chad Mendes and Joseph Benavidez also came one victory short of earning a UFC strap.

Team Quest's glory days ended with the departure of Randy Couture. While the West Coast team has still been producing title challengers since Couture left and founded Xtreme Couture, none of them have been able to get over the hump and dethrone a champion.

Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen combined for five UFC championship bout losses, while Yushin Okami also worked out at the gym prior to his loss against Anderson Silva.


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