Denver, Colorado has always been a breeding ground for mixed martial arts ever since the first UFC event was held there all the way back in 1993.
Since that time, a slew of great fighters have come out of the area, and some of the best and brightest from Denver are now forming together to create a new team under the coaching leadership of former Ultimate Fighter assistant Leister Bowling.
The new squad will be called the Elevation Fight Team and will be headed up by several UFC competitors, including Nate Marquardt, Brendan Schaub, Cat Zingano and Jared Hamman.
According to Bowling, the concept of this team is different than most in MMA because it really is about the fighters and not a single coach or gym looking to get ahead in the business.
"The difference is it's not a gym, it's a team," Bowling told Bleacher Report on Thursday. "It's going to be open to everybody from every gym, and in Denver, there happens to be a lot of good gyms. I think a lot of fighters get pulled in a lot of different directions. Maybe they want to train with me for wrestling, and somewhere else for boxing and somewhere else for jiu-jitsu, and maybe all of those coaches don't get along. That just hurts the fighter. Because they're not getting to train with the best training partners.
"So the concept of this is I run my practices out of the MusclePharm training center, they've kind of named me their in house MMA coach, and it came about because some people were kind of unhappy where they were and wanted to start their own team and asked me to be a part of it and asked me to run it as head coach."
The MusclePharm facility will host the main practices for the team, but they will also branch out to other places in and around Denver, including Easton Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu headed up by retired UFC light heavyweight Eliot Marshall. The idea is for the team to be about getting the best training and coaching possible, while avoiding the politics of fighters only being able to work at one gym.
Bowling has worked with many of the core fighters for several years, and he's excited that they are coming along with him on this new endeavor. Bowling started training Schaub when he was literally just one fight into his pro career, while he's known Zingano since she was in high school.
The long running relationships he's shared with the fighters and that they have shared with one another will hopefully make the new team as strong as any in the game today.
"For those guys to believe in me and trust in me to be, like, the head coach of their team and trust my decisions, it's an honor," Bowling said. "It's awesome to have a group like that, that have always known each other but have been pulled in different directions in their careers. To be able to start with a group like that is awesome."
One of the ideals Bowling is battling against with his new team is the concept that because Marquardt, Schaub and others are training with him now, that they can no longer be a part of another team, like where they previously worked at the Grudge Training Center, a popular facility in Denver headed up by coach Trevor Wittman.
For instance, Zingano will call Elevation Fight Team her home, but she will still train at Zingano Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where her husband coaches and works. He will also be welcome to come work with the new team as well.
Bowling avoids naming names when it comes to the fighters who will no longer be working with a former coach or gym to focus on the new team, but he says Elevation Fight Team will have an open door policy for any fighter who just wants to train and get better.
"There's a few guys out there, and I don't want to name anybody in particular because it's not everybody that's going to be a part of this team necessarily wanted to leave Grudge, but there's some people that just needed a change of atmosphere," Bowling revealed. "They just wanted something different. They really wanted it to be a fighters first team and not really focus on anyone's business. In my mind, as a professional MMA coach, I need to be a part of Team Schaub or Team Marquardt or Team Zingano or whoever I'm coaching at that time rather than my own business. I really think that's what's put me in this position—MMA's not my livelihood, it's my passion.
"There's some people that will still train at Grudge and there's some people that will probably never go back."
Putting the fighter ahead of the gym is the key to Bowling's plan with the new team. He believes every fighter needs to be in a business unto themselves and not get into battling over which gym they represent heading into a fight.
"This is a team. To be a team you've got to be a family—they've got to bleed together, they've got to be there for each other. Anytime, when you mix two businesses, you get conflict. Well, Nate Marquardt is in the Nate Marquardt business, and whatever gym he's in is that business because they have to pay their bills, it's their family's livelihood," Bowling stated. "I believe fighters need to be selfish with their career and not trying to build somebody's business instead of your own. It can be a problem. This team is fighters first."
Marquardt agrees with Bowling as he joins him on the new team, and hopes to keep a very positive attitude flowing at Elevation Fight Team.
"I have been around this sport for a long time. I have seen the best and worst this sport has to offer. I have always had a dream to not only train with the best guys I can, but to train in a positive atmosphere that puts the fighters first," Marquardt said in a press release about the team's creation. "I want to help develop that dream and turn it into a reality not only for my own career but for a lot of the younger fighters I train with on a daily basis.
"I want to be part of a team that puts the fighters first and Elevation Fight Team is going to do that. After brainstorming with my coach Leister Bowling, we decided to run with the idea. This team will be different than any team in MMA today."
The new team is already forming and practices starting up as Schaub gets ready for his next fight, while Zingano prepares for her trip to Las Vegas to begin work on the new season of the Ultimate Fighter.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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