In the early days of mixed martial arts, and the UFC, many fighters came from different styles of combat. It was not until the later years when the idea of “fight teams” came about. One of the earliest teams, and arguably one of the most dominant to date, developed in the fall of 2001. This gym grew into the home of multiple champions, and become the base for multiple professionals in MMA organizations spanning all over the globe. This is American Top Team.
Creation and Evolution
Dan Lambert, one of the masterminds behind the creation of ATT, was a successful businessman and lawyer in the Miami area. Lambert is a huge fan of professional wrestling and eventually ventured to Battlecade: Extreme Fighting.
The first event was supposed to occur in Brooklyn, New York in 1995, but would ultimately occur in Wilmington, North Carolina. Battlecade CEO Rick Blume is actually credited with the coinage of the term “mixed martial arts.” Battlecade: Extreme Fighting 1 would feature a middleweight and heavyweight four-man tournament. The eventual winner of the heavyweight tournament would be another Miami resident and gym owner, Marcus “Conan” Silveira.
Lambert and Silveira would become friends and Lambert attended Silveira’s gym. In an article with Fox Sports, Lambert stated, “John Perretti’s show started, ‘Extreme Fighting,’ and Conan Silveira was in their first show and he had a gym in Miami, and I said, ‘I’m there.’ So I went down to his gym and got my ass beat by some 15-year-old kid who weighed about 100 pounds less than I did my first day, and I said, ‘I’m in!’ and that’s how I started.”
Eventually, the two would create a traveling grappling team of sorts that would take on teams from across the country.
The Final Piece
The third, and possibly the most crucial piece to the creation of ATT, was Ricardo Liborio. The sixth-degree jiu-jitsu black belt was one of the founding members of the Brazilian Top Team.
Liborio was already friends with Silveira from their days in Brazil. Lambert later met Liborio at a UFC event in Las Vegas around September 2001. After a few months in the states, Liborio decided he wanted to stay in America and recreate the Brazilian Top Team, thus the name American Top Team. Though there is no official affiliation between the two teams, Lambert is quoted as saying, “it’s more like distant cousins.”
The Facility and Affiliates
MMASucka was able to speak to the manager of American Top Team, Richie Guerriero. There are 30 licensed affiliate schools and four international academies. These affiliated locations cover 12 states and the countries of Canada, Italy, Croatia, and Austria. The facility in Coconut Creek, Florida is the largest and the home office of the American Top Team organization.
Guerriero informed MMASucka that the Coconut Creek location offers dorm-style rooms for higher level fighters who travel in from other states and countries for some of the best training in the world. It is quite a convenience for a fighter to stay in the building he trains where truly everything that could be needed is under one roof. A few apartments exist for fighters that are developing to stay in as well. There are also over 100 professional fighters currently fighting for the American Top Team family.
American Top Team also offers an amazing support staff that helps the fighters navigate the everyday issues a fighter may encounter leading up to a fight. They help with pre-fight medical exams, booking flights and hotels, etc. Once a fighter has established himself in the world of MMA, a small purse fee of 5% is charged to the fighter. This helps with coach’s costs, facility needs, etc. Fighters do not have to come out of pocket for coaching work and any extra training that is needed for upcoming fights. American Top Team has been offering these services to fighters for quite some time and now has their system down to a science to provide top-notch accommodations for their fighters.
World Famous Coaching
MMASucka was also able to speak with Strength and Conditioning Coach Phil Daru. Daru stated he works with approximately 50 fighters. He also stated the Coconut Creek facility is nearly 40,000 square foot. This makes it by far the biggest of all the American Top Team locations. In the world of MMA Daru is well respected and was also an MMA fighter at one point in his life. He also earned degrees in sports medicine and exercise science. Daru won the MMA best strength and conditioning award in 2012.
Views of American Top Team From the Fighters
American Top Team is home to many professional fighters spanning every major MMA organization in the world. The experience of fighters ranges from long-time veterans to new up and comers. One of those up and comers is former Missouri University wrestling standout, Johnny Eblen. Eblen is currently 2-0 and fights for Shamrock FC. “My favorite part about ATT is the knowledgeable coaching staff and the amount of fighters we have,” Eblen told MMASucka. “Not only can I learn from coaches, I can also learn from fighters. There are plenty of high level fighters there that can teach you a thing or two. I’ve never seen a place with so much knowledge and talent in one place. It’s amazing!”
A long-time veteran of the fight game, free agent Ryan Quinn, has competed several times under the Bellator banner, making his debut for the company at Bellator 15. “The brotherhood I have with my teammates at ATT is something I hold sacred,” Quinn told MMASucka. “Aside from training partners, some of my best friends are in that place. It’s not uncommon to see people hanging out outside the gym together. We go through all the wins and losses together, celebrate on victories, and pick each other up in defeat.” Quinn also spoke on the convenience of having everything under one roof. “At ATT I just have to show up to practice and I’ll be under a world class coach with world-class training partners at all disciplines under one hub. I forget how blessed I am to have that sometimes. It truly bettered my career.”
Another in the long line of amazing talents at American Top Team is Hayder Hassan. Hassan is now competing in Phoenix FC and will compete for the welterweight title in August 2018. “Without a doubt American Top Team has made me the fighter I am today,” Hassan previously told MMASucka. “It is a revolving door of the best prizefighters in the world! ATT has the most fighters in the big leagues than any other team.”
The Women’s Revolution at American Top Team
American Top Team is also home to some of the greatest women’s competitors in the sport today. Former UFC women’s strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and current UFC women’s bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes, currently call ATT home. Future women’s stars such as PFL upcoming superstar and former Judo gold medalist, Kayla Harrison, and UFC flyweight Gillian Robertson also are improving their skills at ATT.
Robertson is a prodigy of one of ATT’s renowned coaches, Din Thomas. Robertson began training with Thomas at the age of 16. She has since continued her growth at ATT currently coming off a huge win over the hyped Molly “Meatball” McCann. “Din is definitely someone who helped build me physically and mentally as a fighter,” Robertson previous told MMASucka. “He’s put in endless hours of drilling and studying in order to help me.”
Harrison has had a bright spotlight put on her since day one due to winning the gold at the Olympics. She previously competed at PFL 2 on June 21, 2018. Harrison won by first-round submission armbar against Brittney Elkin.
A staple in the women’s MMA scene has been Valerie Letourneau. She makes her return to action at the upcoming Bellator 201 card against Kristina Williams. Letourneau was a six-fight veteran of the UFC before signing with Bellator. So far she is 1-0 with a unanimous decision victory over Kate Jackson in December 2017. The 35-year-old will look to continue to move up the ranks if she can pull off another victory.
The Future of American Top Team
American Top Team is showing no signs of slowing down. With UFC welterweight Colby Covington claiming the interim welterweight title at UFC 225, a matchup is all but expected between the two American Top Team champions, Covington and Tyron Woodley. Woodley trains out of American Top Team Evolution located in Brentwood, Missouri.
UFC lightweight Dustin Poirier has a huge matchup rematch with Eddie Alvarez scheduled for UFC Calgary. If Poirier can win, it will be very difficult to deny him a title shot before year’s end. Hassan, as earlier mentioned, will look to get his welterweight title shot within the fourth quarter of 2018. He will continue his climb back to UFC or venture into Bellator.
On the Asian promotional front, Rizin flyweight Kyoji Horiguchi continues to make his mark at the second-best flyweight in MMA history. Former One Championship flyweight champion, Adriano Moraes recently just lost his title by split decision at One Championship: Pinnacle of Power. Being such a close loss, hopefully, Moraes will get a chance to reclaim his crown.
Practically every card for every major organization will host an American Top Team fighter. Look for the powerhouse team to continue growing in the number of fighters and champions. The potential is there for Poirier and Hassan to win gold this year. American Top Team will look to add more gold to their collection by year’s end.
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