With the UFC having made its first visit to Arizona last month, mixed martial arts is even more mainstream than ever before in the Valley. As it is, metro Phoenix is home to many of the nation's top mixed martial artists and several local MMA promotions.
Thanks largely in part to the longstanding dominance of ASU's wrestling program, Phoenix has been a hotbed for MMA fighters and gyms for quite some time, even before the UFC became a household name. Here are five of our favorite MMA gyms in the Valley.
See also: UFC Is Coming to US Airways Center
At one point not too long ago, Arizona Combat Sports may very well have been considered the premier MMA academy in the Valley. These days, it has more competition, but it's still one of the most experienced and viable MMA gyms in the Valley for both beginners and veterans alike. When you add in the fact that it's not far from ASU's campus in Tempe, there's a reason the gym has been around for so long despite lacking some of the staples of other premier gyms, such as high-level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing programs.
For those living in the northeast Valley, there aren't a whole lot of choices for MMA gyms. Thankfully, Fight Ready is the type of gym where a beginner can take a cardio kickboxing class or a professional can train with UFC fighters including Frankie Saenz and former Olympian Henry Cejudo, so it can serve as the main gym for a wide variety of skill levels. Aside from the fighters who train there, Head MMA Coach Roland Silaraup and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor Heath Wigginton add top-notch experience from the coaching side of things.
One of the Valley's newest MMA gyms, Impact MMA opened last fall, but quickly rose to prominence thanks to its knowledgable coaching staff and location in Old Town Scottsdale. Despite going through the normal growing pains and personnel changes that accompany any new gym, owner and recently retired UFC veteran Jamie Varner has managed to maintain a consistently solid stable of trainers and coaches in all facets of MMA. For those just looking to lose a few pounds, Impact also offers a 30-minute KickFit class where you still get to beat up a heavy bag.
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When it comes to the top MMA gym in metro Phoenix, there are really only two schools of thought, and it's may be determined by which side of town you live on. For those in the East Valley, Gilbert's Power MMA is generally viewed as the premier gym. Featuring options in all aspects and levels of mixed martial arts, Power boasts its very own strength program as well as a number of top UFC fighters, including owners Ryan Bader and C.B. Dollaway, and former UFC fighters, such as the third owner, Aaron Simpson, who currently fights for World Series of Fighting.
If there's one Valley MMA gym that has become a nationally renowned destination for fighters looking to step their game up, it's the Lab. Glendale's finest MMA school runs its many professional and amateur fighters through Head Coach John Crouch, including former UFC and WEC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson. With classes ranging from early morning cardio workouts to the deepest and most experienced professional fighter training sessions, the Lab isn't just one of the elite MMA facilities in the state, but in the entire country.