MMA is the greatest individual sport in the world. A fight between two competitors, matching their skills in combat. The fans only see the culmination of the athletes hard work.
What we don't see is the months of grueling training. Hundreds of hours spent on their back, tons of time sparring, and countless hours getting the crap kicked out of you.
There is a thought in the MMA world that you are only as good as the guys you train with. With that in mind, I am going to break down the top five American MMA camps. I will look at the trainers, fighters, and founding members of these camps.
1. Miletich Fighting System
Location: Bettendorf, Iowa.
Founder: Pat Miletich.
Breakdown: The Miletich camp was founded in 1997. Miltich is a former UFC lightweight champion. He defeated Mikey Burnett to win the title. Miletich is a good fighter, but a great coach. A guy that always gets the best out of his guys. The camp has taken some criticism for being too tough. At the Miletich camp a sparring session is much more intense than at some other camps and full contact is expected. Miletich is a believer in getting hit at practice gets you used to getting hit in the cage. Miletich has also done some work with law enforcement and has taught a system of his techniques to SWAT officers.
Notable Fighters: Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, Tim Sylvia, Jeremy Horn, Spencer Fisher, Robbie Lawler, Josh Neer, Ben Rothwell.
2. American Top Team
Location: Coconut Creek, Florida.
Founders: Ricardo Liborio, Marcus Silveira, Marcelo Silveira.
Breakdown: American Top Team and it's founders do have ties to the Brazilian Top Team, which is also one of the top teams in the world. However there is no official connection between the two camps. ATT has over fifty guys that compete in MMA for several different organizations. American Top Team has one of the best crops of up and coming young fighters. Within the next two years don't be surprised if a belt or two calls Coconut Creek home. Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis Jr. and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Ricardo Liborio are head trainers.
Notable Fighters: Thiago Alves, Thiago Silva, Alessio Sakara, Jeff Monson, Denis Kang, Gesias "JZ" Calvancanti, Wilson Gouveia, Antonio Silva, Yves Edawards.
3. Jackson Submission Fighting
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Founder: Greg Jackson.
Breakdown: Jackson is a mastermind of the game-plan. He is great at breaking down an opponent and planning for him. One of the best examples would be the Jardine vs. Liddell fight. Most people would say that Chuck has the better skills but Jardine came in and executed his plan better. Jackson integrated Judo with wrestling to form a martial art known as Gaidojutsu. Jackson also trained under Kickboxing champ Michael Winkeljohn. Jacksons camp also has a crop of young, hungry fighters.
Notable Fighters:Georges St. Pierre, Keith Jardine, Rashard Evans, David Loiseau, Jason Macdonald, Nate Marquardt, Joey Villasenor, Julie Kedzie, Leonard Garcia.
4. American Kickboxing Academy
Location: San Jose, California.
Founder: Bob Cook
Breakdown: AKA has two of the best minds in MMA with "Crazy" Bob Cook and Dave Camarillo. Camarillo study Judo early in his life and later began training with the Gracies in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His combination of the two has helped countless MMA hopefuls. AKA has a great mix of older fighters and younger guys.
Notable Fighters: Paul Buentello, Mike Swick, Josh Thomson, Javier Mendez, Josh Koshcheck, Cung Le, Bobby Southworth, Jon Fitch, Cain Valesquez.
5. Xtreme Couture
Founder: Randy Couture.
Location: (main gym) Las Vegas, Nevada
Breakdown: Randy Couture is one of the most recognized names in all of MMA. Couture has had his hands in some of the greatest camps and gyms in MMA. He co-founded Team Quest with Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland. He also has ties with Bas Rutten and the Legends Gym in Hollywood California. That gym is where Eddie Bravo has his Tenth Planet Jiu-Jitsu School. Couture has always been known for his work ethic and crazy training regime. Most of the fighters that train with Couture share the same passion for the sport.
Notable Fighters: Forrest Griffin, Tyson Griffin, Gray Maynard, Martin Kampmann, Karo Parisyan, Jay Hieron, Kendall Grove, Wand Silva, Gina Carano.
There is my list of the top five American camps in MMA. I'm sure there will be some differing opinions and I can't wait to see the discussions that follow.