Nurturing Champions: 7 Best Trainers in MMA Right Now

Nurturing Champions: 7 Best Trainers in MMA Right Now

Any sport requires hard work and dedication more than skill itself and it is no secret that champions are also the hardest trainers. While hard work and dedication falls mainly on the shoulders of the fighters, it’s a trainer’s job to keep his wards on edge and plan the approach altogether.

Needless to say, an astute mind behind the scenes could all be what a fighter needs to push himself to the top. It’s not only about the time you put into training but it is also about who you train with. As Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan said, you have to surround yourself with people smarter than you are.

Well, why not?

Here are some of the best MMA trainers right now and to nobody’s surprise, there are also responsible for fine-tuning the skills of many current champions.

7.. Edmond Tarverdyan, Glendale Fighting Club

Photo Source: Glendale News Press

Have you ever wondered why UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey manages to improve her skill set every time she competes in the Octagon? Well, credit the man holding the mitts.

Edmond Tarverdyan has been around the fight game since he was in first grade and practically done every martial you can ever imagine. Sanshou, Muay Thai, Karate, Draka–name a discipline, he knows it, and most probably competed in it. In “Rowdy” Ronda’s words, Tarverdyan’s eccentric combination of disciplines contributes a lot in making the training more enjoyable.

It’s so much easier to work and to maintain that energy all the time when I’m excited and optimistic about everything and I’m enjoying myself,” Rousey said. “When I was in judo, I would enjoy winning and I wouldn’t enjoy training. And now I just love all of it. And it has a lot to do with Edmond.

I bet Travis Browne will like his time at GFC, too.

6. Ray Longo and Matt Serra

The two-headed monster out of Long Island, New York, Matt Serra and Ray Longo are the bright minds behind middleweight champion Chris Weidman‘s success. Longo, despite all that weight in his midsection, is a bad-ass practicioner of stand-up martial arts like Jeet-kun-do, Muay Thai, and boxing while Serra is a BJJ black belt under Renzo Gracie.

Now Serra may be the more well-known of the pair being a one-time UFC 170-lb champion, but Longo was the team’s head of the snake, if you will. Apparently, what happened to Anderson Silva at UFC 168 is by Longo’s design, calling the technique “destruction” and evidently came from the JKD concept.

“The origin”, Longo begins, “I’ll give you for how it came to be for me. I was a Jeet Kune Do (JKD) practitioner under, technically, the lineage of Dan Inosanto, who was under Bruce Lee. And I think Bruce, or at least Dan, had incorporated a lot of Filipino martial arts.”

“There’s a thing called ‘destructions’ where – and it’s been around forever, I didn’t make it up. From the waist up, anything that comes in your elbow takes care of and anything from the waist down your knee takes care of.”

So for you all Anderson Silva fans, blame Ray Longo.

5. Ricardo Liborio, American Top Team

Photo Credit: MMA Mania

For the American Top Team, it’s not so much as raising champions as it is about the camaraderie spirit. Head trainer Ricardo Liborio, a Carlson Gracie-taught BJJ standout, trains a whole stable of fighters including top welterweight contenders Robbie Lawler, Tyron Woodley, Hector Lombard (in the photo) and while also taking Brazilian standouts Glover Teixeira and Bigfoot Silva under his wing. Liborio also trained past champions Mike Brown and Jeff Monson.

A multi-titled grappling Hall of Famer, Liborio preaches taking pressure off oneself by accepting the possibility of losing and that understanding the concept of failing is not bad in itself.

4. Duke Roufus, Roufusport

Out of all the crazy concepts trainers preach, Roufus’ “quality over quantity” rationale is my absolute favorite. And who the heck will find fault in that if the philosophy produced Anthony “Showtime” Pettis himself?

In Duke’s own words, he’d rather die than give a boring fight.

“That’s the one thing I’ve tried to do as a martial arts coach right now, create a style of fighting that fans are like ‘wow, I’ve got to watch this’. No one’s going, ‘oh, I love the way you lay on that guy’. No one’s jumping for joy when they watch that. If you can find me those fans, please introduce me to them.”

Sign me up please.

3. Andre Pederneiras, Nova Uniao

If you have those guys behind as students, then you’re a freaking shoo-in in this list.

“Dede”, like fellow Brazilian Ricardo Liborio, learned the nuances of BJJ under the tutelage of Carlson Gracie and co-founded Nova Uniao (New Union) with Wendel Alexander. Pederneiras was practically a pioneer in terms of training where he was the first Brazilian to accept non-natives in his team, namely John Lewis and B.J. Penn. He was also adamant about training poor kids in the Rio area so they can professionally fight in the future and earn for themselves.

Right now, Andre’s stable is universally-recognized as the best in the lower weight classes. With Jose Aldo and Renan Barao in there (and an army of 60 other fighters), it’s hard to argue.

2. Javier Mendez, American Kickboxing Academy

Mendez is one of the premiere kickboxers in the 80’s but his first incursion in the MMA world was in 1996 when UFC  fighter Brian Johnston enlisted his help to fine-tune his stand-up skills.

The rest, they say, is history.

Mendez went on to calibrate the kick-boxing skills of three future champions and one of them, Cain Velasquez, is recognized as the best Heavyweight on the planet. Other prominent fighters in his fold are Daniel Cormier, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Marius Zaromkis.

1. Greg Jackson, Jackson’s MMA

Armed with an infectious smile and quite a small frame, it’s hard to believe Jackson actually grew up in an environment where violence abound. He was raised in a family of wrestlers, which came in handy living in a rough neighborhood in Albuquerque.

After graduating from High School, young Greg developed some sort of an MMA art of his own which he called Gaidojutsu. The discipline combined basic techniques from all martial arts he learned including wrestling, kickboxing, and judo. In other words, he was an MMA pioneer of sorts, even before the UFC and Pride locked in a stranglehold of the sport.

Today, Jackson joined forces with longtime friend Mike Winklejohn, an accomplished Kempo and Muay Thai practicioner.

Jan Obguia

Just an average Joe that prides about the fact that he played basketball on all three of the biggest island groups in the Philippines. Enjoys eating and 70s music as much as the next guy, but thinks there isn’t a more delightful thing in the world than learning. For comments, reactions, suggestions, let Jan Rey know below.