When you think of the best mixed martial arts gyms in northwest America, the obvious standouts are the homes of current or former champions like AMC Pankration in Washington or Team Quest in Oregon, but one gym in particular has really been making waves as of late.
That would be the relatively new Sports Lab, headed by Phil Claud. Behind Claud's philosophy of surrounding himself with the best and brightest coaches and trainers, his gym has really taken off in the past year.
Look no further than the emergence of bantamweight prospect Tyson Nam, who knocked Bellator 135 pound champion Eduardo Dantas silly or UFC welterweight Mike Pierce, who's now riding a three fight winning streak in the promotion.
Of course, when a gym is on the rise, the established training center has a choice of whether they're going to be willing to work with you or against you. Claud has been hit by a series of hurdles tossed his way by Team Quest in the past few months and he spoke with MMAmania.com about making his recent grievances public in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Since you're based in Portland, Oregon, you're in a close proximity to one of the most renowned gyms in North America, Team Quest. How have you guys coexisted in the past and how have things changed now?
Phil Claud: Well I think the landscape of the Portland area MMA community has changed dramatically. I'm not gonna lie. Our relationship is poor at best and seems to be getting worse. A lot of my guys in Sports Lab have trained or been a part of Team Quest for long periods of time. We definitely have some serious issues in terms of the dynamics between Team Quest and us. I don't really understand it. I've reached out on my end a number of times.
It all goes back to my philosophy of, "If you're a genius, surround yourself with geniuses. If you're an idiot, surround yourself with geniuses." I think the whole Portland community and how many athletes across this country have ties back to Portland is a great asset. Why Team Quest seems to want to have an isolated "My way or the highway" instead of an open relationship with us is beyond me. I think some of the things and the behaviors they've displayed in the last several months have been unprofessional and destructive towards the community as a whole and I'm really disappointed with them.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Well let's start with several of your fighters who used to train at Team Quest. What was the tipping point that made them want to turn to you?
Phil Claud: Everyone has their own individual reasons, but I think a lot of it is that a lot of these guys need access to higher level training. Being tough only gets you so far. When your career stalls out due to injury or opportunity, it's in your best interest to find the best opportunities for yourself to keep moving forward. I think that some of the guys, and everyone has their own reasons for coming to our gym but at the end of the day, a lot of the guys felt they weren't getting what they needed.
I've never asked one guy from Team Quest to come train with me. They've always asked if they could come here. Our doors are always going to be open to someone who wants to be helped. Some of the stories from some of the guys, it took me basically six months to even a year to reprogram their way of thinking because they're kinda damaged goods coming out of Team Quest and I think a lot of ex-Team Quest members and people who've had a relationship with them will tell you that it is a toxic environment.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now you mentioned that there were several things that have been unprofessional for the past few months. What was the straw that broke the camel's back for you where you were like, "I can't take this anymore!" and "I need to vent my frustration!"
Phil Claud: (laughs) I think it really comes with the recent success and the career turnarounds for some of the guys here. Dave Jansen being one of them and there's been a lot of negative flack coming out of Team Quest because of him. A number of people that have been long time friends of his that want to train with him who could benefit who are still over there have been given ultimatums. "You stay here but if you receive training at Sports Lab, we're kicking you out." which is just ridiculous to me and one of the big things that has really made me turn sour against them.
How can you give a fighter who has known a guy for 5-10 years and ultimatum and say, "You can't help or train with this guy," and vice versa. I would never do that. These guys have long-standing relationships and again goes back to the strength of the community.
The other one is taking credit for athletes that have been in Sports Lab for long periods of time. I've worked with Dave Jansen and Ian Loveland for over two years and Tyson Nam for over a year and a half now and after Tyson Nam knocked out Eduard Dantas, Matt Lindland was on a talk show in Great Britain where he basically took credit for Tyson Nam. He was asked specifically about Tyson Nam's knockout and took credit for it. He's still using him as a marketing tool for his clothing company and still has him listed on his webpage and in my mind, that's just misleading and fraudulent in my mind.
Their webpage still has Ian Loveland, Damon Wood, a young up-and-coming guy as part of the fight team and they've all been with me for over a year and a half. At what point are they Sports Lab athletes and no longer Team Quest athletes?