Fighters are compelling characters in the world of sports. Among athletes across every sport known to man, they stand out most. But sometimes we forget that behind every great story; behind every great fighter, is a great coach. Without the guidance and mind of a coach, fighters would not be fully prepared to face the challenge that is put in front of them in a fight.
1) Greg Jackson, Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA
Greg Jackson is widely considered to be one of, if not the best coach in all of MMA. Jackson’s award-winning MMA gym Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA Academy is also recognized as one of the top MMA gyms in the world. Jackson has also won several best coach and coach of the year awards.
Together with trainer Mike Winkeljohn, Jackson has helped train some of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, which include former and current UFC World Champions Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, Carlos Condit, and more.
2) Rafael Cordeiro, Kings MMA
Rafael Cordeiro is one of the pioneer coaches in MMA. The former fighter and coach from Chute Box Academy helped produce some of the biggest names in MMA including Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and Anderson Silva. Cordeiro is known for his ability to develop a fighter’s striking game to be highly effective in MMA.
Having won numerous best coach and coach of the year awards, Cordeiro continues to raise champions and top fighters in sport under his new gym, Kings MMA. Some of these fighters include current and former UFC World Champions Rafael Dos Anjos, Fabricio Werdum, and Lyoto Machida.
3) Andre Pederneiras, Nova Uniao
Andre Pederneiras is not just regarded as one of the top MMA coaches in the world; he is also one of the top Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) coaches around. The leader and co-founder of the Nova Uniao MMA academy, Paderneiras is also known for raising world champions who have come from the impoverished communities in Rio de Janeiro.
Nova Uniao is also recognized as one of the best BJJ facilities in the world for having produced great grapplers like Robson Moura and BJ Penn. Members of the Nova Uniao fight team include current and former world champions like Jose Aldo, Renan Barao, Junior dos Santos, and Marlon Sandro.
4) Heath Sims, Evolve MMA
Heath Sims is one of the most accomplished coaches on this list. The former US Olympic wrestler and 6x US National Greco-Roman Wrestling Champion from the United States was the head coach for Dan Henderson since the beginning of Dan’s career until now and steered an illustrious MMA career that saw Henderson claim the Pride Championships titles at Welterweight and Middleweight and the Strikeforce Championship at Light Heavyweight. Sims has also worked extensively with Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, Randy Couture, and many other legendary names.
Now, Sims is the head coach of Asia’s most decorated professional fighting team at Evolve MMA in Singapore. The Evolve Fight Team has competed and won at the highest levels of competition in MMA such as the UFC, ONE Championship, DREAM, Pride FC, and Bellator FC. Fighters in the Evolve Fight Team include UFC Lightweight World Champion Rafael Dos Anjos, ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki, ONE Welterweight World Champion and former Bellator Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren, Strikeforce Champion Tarec Saffiedine, UFC rising star Leandro “Brodinho” Issa, ONE Superstar Jake Butler, ONE Superstar Herbert Burns, ONE Superstar Eddie Ng, ONE Superstar Angela Lee, and many others.
5) Firas Zahabi, TriStar Gym
Firas Zahabi is known for establishing one of the best gyms in all of Canada and MMA, the TriStar Gym. He is known for his analytical, in-depth and innovative approach to MMA fighting. He also has a close partnership with Greg Jackson which allows both camps to share knowledge, techniques and strategies.
Firas Zahabi and the TriStar Gym is known for training and producing some of the best and most well-rounded fighters in MMA, which include former UFC Welterweight World Champion Georges St-Pierre, UFC title contender Rory MacDonald, and former UFC star Kenny Florian.
6) Javier Mendez, American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)
Javier Mendez is considered to be one of the pioneer coaches of MMA. The former kickboxing champion founded the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in the 80s but it wasn’t until the mid 90s that Mendez ventured into the world of MMA. Mendez then started a new career as an MMA trainer and soon found his first UFC champion when Frank Shamrock joined the AKA in 1997.
Mendez and the AKA team would go on train some of the top fighters in the business to date. The AKA stable of fighters is one of the most decorated fight teams in the world with current and former champions and top title contenders like BJ Penn, Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold, Josh Thompson, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and more.
7) Ricardo Liborio, American Top Team
Ricardo Liborio is the head trainer and co-founder of MMA Gym, American Top Team (ATT). Liborio was a student of legendary Vale Tudo fighter Carlson Gracie and is a very accomplished BJJ practitioner and grappler.
Liborio and ATT have been in MMA for more than a decade and produced some of the best fighters the sport has ever seen. Their current stable of fighters includes current and former champions and top fighters Robbie Lawler, Yoel Romera, Tyron Woodley, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, and more.
8) Duane Ludwig, Team Alpha Male/Ludwig Martial Arts
Team Alpha Male is one of the most popular teams in the sport of MMA, and the key to their success? Duane “Bang” Ludwig. The former kickboxing champion and UFC fighter has received acclaim for his role in helping Team Alpha Male become one of the top MMA camps in the world.
Apart from helping Team Alpha Male win Gym of the Year in 2013, Ludwig was also voted the Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2014. He has trained and developed many top MMA fighters today including UFC Bantamweight World Champion TJ Dillashaw, Chad Mendes, Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and more.
9) Cesar Gracie, Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy
Back when Strikeforce was still around, Cesar Gracie helped build a stable of fighters that would go on to own the divisions of the entire promotion. Gracie is also known for having one of the most closely knitted and loyal teams in MMA.
Some of the fighters who belong to his team include the top UFC stars and former Strikeforce Champions Nick Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields, and UFC lightweight star Nate Diaz.
10) Eric Del Fierro, Alliance MMA
While he prefers to stay out of the limelight, Eric Del Fierro is undoubtedly doing marvelous things in MMA as the head coach of one of the sport’s top gyms, Alliance MMA. Del Fierro has been coaching for over a decade and has helped raise some of the most talented fighters in MMA.
Del Fierro’s Alliance MMA is known for having some of the most athletic and promising fighters including former UFC Bantamweight World Champion Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson, Brandon Vera, and more.
Let us not forget that every coach is unique; with specific qualities that make them suitable for their also unique fighters. They guide, lead, and want only success for those they coach. Whether you are a martial artist or not, don’t forget the “coaches” in your life who have contributed to the person you are today.