While the sport of mixed martial arts continues to spread around the globe and a host of MMA gyms outside of North America continue to show promise. In recent years there has been a consistency vein of form in terms of mostly the same MMA gyms, consistently producing the very best talent the sport has to offer.
And while there are a growing number of MMA promotions, the majority of the western world still looks to the Ultimate Fighting Championships as the flag bearer for the sport. With any fighter who can make it to their elite ranks being considered amongst the very best in the world.
This is not to discount those fighters who are competing outside the UFC. But in a global sport where there are untold numbers of athletes, competing in promotions we often know little about. The safest bet is to stick with those fighters and gyms who for those most part ply their trade on the biggest stage in the world, the UFC.
Most fighters will make a certain gym their fulltime home. While others will split their time between several locations, as they look to improve their overall skillset, seeking out specific trainers to work on areas of their game where they feel they are lacking. For this reason, it can be a little misleading when we see certain fighters on the books of a particular gym. Knowing their true training home is somewhere else entirely.
But the sport, along with the fighters is in constant flux and having those who cross-train in other gyms can only be a good thing for all involved, as they raise each others game. Helping elevate the sport to even greater levels of quality and professionalism. So let’s bring it on as we take a closer look at the very best MMA gyms in the world 2020 and beyond.
Tiger Muay Thai – Phuket
While Tiger Muay Thai which based in Chalong, Mueang Phuket, Thailand is mainly considered a Muay Thai gym. Nowadays its training rooms are filled with some of the very best mixed martial arts fighters on the planet. And while MMA is still banned in the country, that does not stifle the growth in some of the big Muay Thai gyms who now have MMA training as part and parcel of their offering.
And while many of the big names we see are basing themselves out of the club. Some of those same fighters will also have an alternate gym at which they train during another point of the year. Using TMT as a location to sharpen some specific aspects of their game, namely their stand up striking. And while not a fully-fledged mixed martial arts facility, there can be no denying it’s place in the ranks amongst worlds best MMA gyms.
|Valentina Shevchenko||Israel Adesanya||Tarec Saffiedine|
|Mairbek Taisumov||Zubaira Tukhugov||Nordine Taleb|
|Nick Hein||Ben Nguyen||Dan Hooker|
|Jason Saggo||Zubaira Tukhugov|
Tristar Gym – Montreal
Where once Tristar stood at the very top of the best MMA gyms rankings. In more recent times, somewhat of the shine has been taken away since the on-off retirement of its talisman fighter, one Georges St-Pierre. The partnership of head coach and gym owner Firas Zahabi with St Pierre was a world-beater. Which led the gym to be placed side by side with the elite of the elite and amongst the worlds top places to train mixed martial arts.
Today Tristar still has an excellent stable of fighters, but not quite on the same level as when the gym was at it’s peak. With a sprinkling of UFC as well as Bellator fighters including their welterweight champion Rory MacDonald. Let’s see what 2020 holds for the Montreal club that trailblazed the way for Canadian MMA.
|Rory MacDonald||Joseph Duffy||Olivier Aubin-Mercier|
|Elias Theodorou||Chad Laprise||Aiemann Zahabi|
|Ryan Hall||Arnold Allen||Tom Breese|
Team Alpha Male – Sacramento
Just a few short years ago Team Alpha Male was the talk of the mixed martial arts world. With its leader Urijah Faber at the helm, TAM became known as perhaps the best gym in the world for the smaller weight classes to train. Producing a tonne of UFC contenders and champions along the way including former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and top contender Chad Mendes.
Since then its very public splits have led to somewhat of a slide in its position amongst the worlds elite. It still boasts some of the best fighters in the world. But from the outside looking in, it appears to have stopped evolving and somewhat stalled, as apparent by its recent results. Still one of the best, but there are always new contenders on the block.
|Urijah Faber||Cody Garbrandt||Darren Elkins|
|Clay Guida||Chad Mendes||Andre Fili|
Kings MMA – Huntington Beach
Head coach and gym owner Rafael Cordero has been part of the mixed martial arts landscape since back in the early 1990s. Originally from Curitiba, Brazil, Cordeiro has more recently made Hungtington Beach California his home. Having already been voted coach of the year at the World MMA Awards on two separate occasions. Cordeiro has established both himself and his gym as one of the premier MMA centres in the world.
Now with a host of ex-champions and legends in the sport in his stable. More recently Kings has seen the unlikely rise of Kelvin Gastelum from the last pick on the Ultimate Fighter to top contender for the 185 lb UFC title. Kings rise has been steady throughout and it will be interesting to hopefully see it’s next wave of talent breaking through.
|Kelvin Gastelum||Fabrício Werdum||Lyoto Machida|
|Wanderlei Silva||Maurício “Shogun” Rua||Beneil Dariush|
|Jake Ellenberger||Jon Tuck||Marvin Vettori|
ROufuSport – Milwaukee
While head coach Duke Roufus may be more known for his prowess in kickboxing. In Roufusport, the Milwaukee native has built up quite the MMA gym, producing several world champions along the way. With the two Pettis brothers being the original names on the Roufus roster which cracked the big leagues. Since then, the gym has added a number of world-beaters, as well as up and comers to its ranks.
The former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, along with the former One championship welterweight champ Ben Askren. Roufus sport has built a solid program that churns out some of the best the sport has to offer. While perhaps right now in somewhat of a slump, it’s fighters are still in the running for some of the UFC’s top spots.
|Anthony Pettis||Paul Felder||Belal Muhammad|
|Sergio Pettis||Elias Garcia||Emmanuel Sanchez|
|Gerald Meerschaert||Sarah Kaufman||Ben Askren|
|Jared Gordon||Tyron Woodley|
Ricardo Almeida Academy – New Jersey
Part of a wider family in the New Jersey Area referred to as The Iron Army. Other notable fighters who cross-train at the gym include the former UFC middleweight champion, Chris Weidman. And while Ricardo Almeida’s academy is not often singled out as one of the standout MMA gyms. It’s quite obvious from the list below just how many great fighters choose to call the gym their home away from home.
With Serra Longo part of a wider tapestry that also includes Cantone MMA, along with renowned boxing coach Mark Henry. New York City and its surrounding area have become a hotbed for the sport. Since the 2016 lifting of the ban on MMA in New York state, the sport and it’s popularity has continued to skyrocket. The future looks bright for the Big Apple and its slew of up and coming clubs.
|Frankie Edgar||Zabit Magomedsharipov||Edson Barboza|
|Marlon Moraes||Eddie Alvarez||Frankie Perez|
Hard Knocks 365 – Fort Lauderdale
With the untimely demise of the Blackzillians gym. Dutch kickboxing striking coach par excellence Henri Hooft went about establishing his own new venue to host the vast majority of the ex Blackzillian fighters who were left without a home. Hooft quickly filled the void with some of the best talent in the sport to fill the mats. And since its inception, Hard Knocks has had some of the top fighters in the UFC train under its roof.
Those include UFC light heavyweight challenger to Daniel Cormier’s reign, Volkan Oezdemir. AKA teammate and former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. Along with the UFC’s current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Let’s not forget top lightweight Michael Johnson and Bellator heavyweight Matt Mitrione. Hard Knocks may be a fresh face on the scene, but its ranks are filled with experienced pro’s.
|Volkan Oezdemir||Luke Rockhold||Kamaru Usman|
|Michael Johnson||Stefan Struve||Ryan LaFlare|
|Matt Mitrione||Chas Skelly||Desmond Green|
|Danny Roberts||Gilbert Burns||Vicente Luque|
America Kickboxing Academy – San Jose
The American Kickboxing Academy or AKA in San Jose California has been around the top of the unofficial world rankings now for a long time. Ever since their first big name, former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, burst on to the scene back in 2008. AKA has been consistently delivering, adding a host of UFC champions to its gym walls.
Those include the UFC two-division Champion and AKA team captain Daniel Cormier. The former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. And one of the most dominant men in all mixed martial arts, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. This combined with several fighters from Eagles MMA. AKA has one of the most solid teams and groups of stablemates in the sport.
|Daniel Cormier||Khabib Nurmagomedov||Islam Makhachev|
|Alejandro Pérez||Leon Edwards||Bethe Correia|
|Todd Duffee||John Fitch||Islam Makhachev|
Jackson Wink – Albuquerque
Greg Jackson and partner Mike Winkeljohn have always been ahead of the curve in terms of fighter development. Their approach to their craft has won them accolades and loyalty from some of the sports biggest stars. Today Jackson Wink still boasts one of the most solid fighter rosters in the business.
With the reigning UFC light heavyweight champion and p4p contender Jon Jones sitting at the top. The Ronda Rousey Destroyer and ex bantamweight champion Holly Holm, along with top strawweight Michelle Waterson and former Nova União fighter Claudia Gadelha. Along with some of the most seasoned pros like Carlos Condit and Andrei Arlovski, Jackson Wink is still very much one of the elite MMA gyms on the planet.
|Jon Jones||Holly Holm||Michelle Waterson|
|Ray Borg||Ali Bagautinov||B.J. Penn|
|Cláudia Gadelha||Diego Sanchez||Andrei Arlovski|
|Carlos Condit||John Dodson||Cub Swanson|
|Diego Brandão||Lando Vannata||Magomed Mustafaev|
|Kyle Noke||Tom Duquesnoy||Iuri Alcântara|
|Ildemar Alcântara||Siyar Bahadurzada|
American Top Team – Coconut Creek
American Top Team or ATT has always been in or around the top of the pile in recent years. A huge facility with some 29 fighters of note, ATT has through the years continued to build its team into what right now may currently be the best team on the planet.
With their stable of fighters ranging from two-division UFC champion Amanda Nunes to former women’s strawweight queen Joanna Jędrzejczyk. They also boast top contenders in the welterweight and lightweight divisions in the form of Jorge Masvidal and Dustin Poirier. Add to that the Interm UFC welterweight champion Colby Covington, top light heavyweight contender Thiago Santos, Yoel Romero, Junior Dos Santos and many others.
ATT has truly grown into a powerhouse and supreme leader amongst the best MMA gyms in the world today. And we look forward to seeing what 2020 brings for many of its fighters who now sit on the cusp of greatness.
|Amanda Nunes||Joanna Jędrzejczyk||Colby Covington|
|Dustin Poirier||Alex Chambers||Jorge Masvidal|
|Junior Dos Santos||Yoel Romero||Santiago Ponzinibbio|
|Jessica Aguilar||Thiago Santos||Charles Rosa|
|Thiago Alves||Gleison Tibau||Antônio “Bigfoot” Silva|
|Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal||Will Brooks||Marc Diakiese|
|Douglas Lima||Oleksiy Oliynyk||Rashid Magomedov|
|Marcos Rogério de Lima||Dhiego Lima||Omari Akhmedov|
|Sultan Aliev||Valérie Létourneau||Antônio Carlos Júnior|
City kickboxing – Auckland | Israel Adesanya, Dan Hooker
Under the tutelage of coach Eugene Bareman, the UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has taken the sport by storm. Throw in top-ranked lightweight Dan Hooker into the mix and you have to give credit to the small club way out there in Auckland, New Zealand.
Law MMA – Garden City | Chris Weidman, Al Iaquinta, Aljamain Sterling
Long Weidman in Long Island is home to the former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, two top-ranked UFC fighters and some other up and coming names. LAW was the talk of the town when Weidman ruled the roost. Today it still boasts a solid stable of fighters within a growing hotbed of MMA talent in the greater New York region.
Straight Blast Gym – Dublin | Conor McGregor, Gunnar Nelson, James Gallagher
Having moved to a new facility known as “The Monster”, SBG Dublin is going from strength to strength. And while the most famous MMA fighter in the world trains at the facility, the Irish invasion has somewhat stalled. Still, the future looks bright for Ireland’s premier MMA gym.
Eagles MMA – Kutuzovsky | Abubakur Nurmagedov, Sergei Pavlovich
Eagles MMA is a powerhouse amongst MMA clubs in the Euro Asia region. But with more and more of their fighters joining the ranks of the UFC and other big promotions. It won’t be long before this gym’s exploits lead to bigger and better results on the main stage.
Nova União – Manaus | Jose Aldo, Renan Barrao
Where once Nova União was rated at the very top amongst fighters and pundits alike, today it’s stable of elite fighters have seen better days. And with some big-names leaving for greener pastures, who knows what the future holds.
Evolve MMA – Singapore | Rafael Dos Anjos, Angela Lee
Evolve is the most highly regarded and largest gym in Asia. But as important is the fact that western fighters are now making Evolve their home away from home. Helping to boost its status and raise the level of its professional fight team. Evolve now claims to have more champions than any other MMA gym worldwide.