It's home to several former UFC title challengers, an ex-heavyweight champion, a Strikeforce Grand Prix champ and a wealth of the elite in multiple weight classes throughout our beloved sport.
With all those big alpha male personalities, however, comes conflict.
Last night was a double header featuring the sixth and seventh episodes of Fight Factory on Nuvo TV, a new TV series which follows all the behind-the-scenes goings-on of AKA. Through six episodes, viewers have bared witness to intense drama with Josh Koscheck's split from AKA, the team dealing with a surprising amount of loss and adversity from top to bottom with the occasional success story mixed in.
The ups and downs were both on full display throughout the two-hour marathon last night.
Kicking things off was an episode which revolved around the consequences of prior shows. Josh Koscheck looked to blow off some steam with his new team, Phil Baroni potentially had to face the music following his embarrassing loss in Colorado and lastly, a new face made an appearance in Justin "Buff" Willis, a heavyweight sparring partner at AKA who was making his pro debut.
Seeing just how close Baroni came to being told to hang it up made it all the more fulfilling knowing that he recently bounced back with his One FC win last week. He came to grips with the reality that a fear of gassing and getting tired was limiting him both mentally and physically in his training and in his fights. There were two Baronis, the one who starts strong with a healthy gas tank, and the one who slows down, gets exhausted and completely fades. The team at AKA worked to correct those mental gaffs.
The big story of the episode was a heartbreaker. Justin Willis, making his pro debut, told his story of being a foster child, being moved to 23 different homes growing up, surviving life on the streets, finally getting a loving family to take care of him and help him get through college. His adopted family didn't approve of his fight career, but he felt he owed it to himself and to the 98% of the kids in his situation who don't graduate college to go out there, win his fight and be a positive role model.
Unfortunately, fairy tale endings are primarily reserved for Disney movies. After starting strong in his fight, Willis faded in the second round of his high altitude pro debut and was TKOd in the second round. Angry and embarrassed, he made the cameras leave the post-fight locker room and he never returned to the American Kickboxing Academy. The sixth episode ended with trainer/manager Bob Cook calling him and leaving voice mails about returning. Willis has not fought or appeared on social media since his fight.
The seventh episode revolved around three fighters. Gabriel Carrasco, a 30 year old making his pro debut, Chris Honeycutt, an All-American wrestler who was looking to get into MMA and join Josh Koscheck's gym at Dethrone Base Camp and Luke Rockhold, the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion.
Carrasco had to deal with the pressures of finally being a a pro fighter, which meant taking less hours at his other job at an auto body repair job, sponsorships and much more.
Honeycutt had no experience fighting whatsoever so the managers of Zinken Entertainment took a good hard look at him to find out whether he'd be worth their time. After a few days of training, they actually threw him into the ring to spar against manager/trainer "Crazy" Bob Cook to see just how he'd handle a real fight situation...and he passed with flying colors. According to their reports, this is a kid you'll need to be keeping your eye on for the future.
Josh Koscheck again reveals his colors by talking to Honeycutt about how he needs to be a success because he wants to build a better team than AKA from the ground up and stick it to his former head coach Javier Mendez.
The Luke Rockhold feature was complicated. He starts the episode by returning to the gym following his most recent title defense against Tim Kennedy, but he is completely unfulfilled. He doesn't want to fight in Strikeforce, he wants to fight in the UFC against the best in the world. When UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva mentions fighting Rockhold, he tries to get his team to scramble and make the fight happen, but of course, it's not possible. It was very interesting to see just how frustrated he really is in his current situation and the cameras did a great job of capturing those emotions.
The show ended on a high note as Carrasco steamrolls his opponent. Despite having a strong background in kickboxing, he takes his foe down and finishes him with an armbar inside the first two minutes.
The episode ends on a high note, but the teaser for next week is what is going to have people talking. Koscheck and former coach (and current rival) Javier Mendez finally confront each other and air out their grievances. This will be must-see television.
Did you catch last night's episode? If so, what did you think?