2016 has been the biggest year for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Each year, people tend to look back on the more obvious things such as, which fighter has had the most success? Or who the champion is? or even, which are the fights that stand out the most? People tend to neglect the main reasons behind the success or downfall of many, which are the MMA gyms. The fighters’ training camps and the people around them are crucial to their success, and sometimes failure. There is no doubt that there are a number of successful gyms in the MMA industry. The few that stand out though, are world-renowned and for good reasons. There were many ups and downs in the MMA industry this year, which made it tough for us to decide who to put as RealSport’s Fight Team of The Year. Therefore, we ended up having a tie for a variety of reasons, which I will explain below.
JACKSON WINK – PROFESSIONAL MMA TRAINING ACADEMY
Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn have established their reputation as top level professional MMA coaches over the years by co-owning a training academy containing some of the top fighters in the UFC and beyond. Jackson Wink MMA Academy has accumulated a multiple world championship belts. Their athletes include the likes of Jon Jones, Holly Holm, Tim Kennedy and Carlos Condit. In 2016, this training camp has been a part of numerous top UFC pay-per-views. Overall, this MMA academy has been the most relevant and competitive during the past year. With that being said, they had their top fighter, Jon Jones, suspended and pulled off of what was supposed to be the biggest UFC pay-per-view of all time, UFC 200. In consequence of Jones’ second banned substance suspension and the lack of big wins, the “Fight Team of The Year” award had to be shared between two teams.
Straight Blast Gym (SBG Dublin, Ireland)
I know what you’re thinking; there are many other gyms that deserve to be on this list, simply because they have more relevant fighters in the bigger promotions such as the UFC and Bellator MMA. As of January 2017, SBG have six fighters signed to UFC and a few to Bellator. But, they are not the main reason SBG is slated at number one. The main and only reason everyone is talking about the Dublin-based fight camp is down to the “Champ Champ”, Conor McGregor. McGregor is the biggest draw the UFC has ever had, beating the likes of Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey and Georges St-Pierre in both pay-per-view rankings and salary. With Conor’s popularity and dominant success, John Kavanagh, owner and head coach of Straight Blast Gym, is now considered as one the top coaches in the mixed martial arts industry.
The gym itself is amazing! Recently, the SBG facility expanded to now accommodate to families, beginners, and advanced fighters. In addition, they now welcome international fighters for training camps. It is considered to be Ireland’s top fighting gym. Straight Blast Gym is as legit as any MMA gym across the globe!
Honorable mentions: American Kickboxing Academy, Team Alpha Male, Tristar, Wolfslair MMA Academy.
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