Originally, I posted a version of this article last year, and seeing as more than 12 months had elapsed since then, I felt an update was well overdue. Much has changed since the original post and contrasts between the two lists could be a reflection of developments either in the Asian mixed martial arts (MMA) scene as a whole or in terms of my own level of knowledge and understanding.
Being based in Thailand, I spend a lot of time in South East Asia and regularly visit places like the Philippines, Malaysia, Macau and Singapore. Therefore, I have had to make a conscious effort to expand my horizons and become more familiar with the MMA scene in places that aren't in proximity to my adopted home such as South Korea, Japan and China.
To compile this list I did a lot of research, examining recent fighter performances, as well as a few other factors such as the caliber of the coaching staff and the reputation of the fighters who travel to train. Even though Tiger Muay Thai's most prominent fighters haven't been too active of late, the camp gets credit because Georges St. Pierre chose to spend a few weeks there.
Interestingly, although Japan is home to a a higher percentage of the top Asian fighters than any other country it is difficult to pick out which are the exceptional camps because fighters are spread across so many with Masakatsu Ueda at Paraestra Tokyo, Yushin Okami at Wajutsu Keishukai Tokyo, Koji Oishi at Pancraseism and Takeya Mizugaki at Hakkei, etc.
There also seems to be a lot more cross training in Japan than in other countries with fighters travelling to multiple facilities depending on if they want to do pad work, sparring, Brazilian jiu-jitsu or strength and conditioning, making it more difficult to keep track of exactly who is representing which team.
One new contender on the scene that didn't quite make the list because it is still in its infancy is the Korean Zombie camp. It was only set up by Chan Sung Jung a few month's ago, but is definitely one to watch with top Featherweight prospect Yun Sun Lee also having jumped ship from Korea Top Team.
Without further ado, here are the TOP 10 MMA training camps in Asia today:
1. Evolve MMA
Shinya Aoki won the One FC Lightweight title while Rafael dos Anjos, who also trains at Kings MMA in LA, is on a four fight winning streak which has seen him burst into the top ten in the highly competitive UFC 155-pound division. Meanwhile One FC fighters Eddie Ng and Leandro Issa are both on fine form with Jake Butler also making a big early impression.
What really sets Evolve MMA apart from the other camps in Asia is the coaching infrastructure with U.S. Olympian Heath Sims heading up the wrestling program, former boxing world champion Yodsanan Sityodtong in charge of the boxing and numerous BJJ black belts and Lumpinee and Rajadamnern champions to oversee the striking and grappling.
It is the calibre of the coaches which entices fighters like Joseph Benavidez, Ben Askren, Dan Henderson and Rich Franklin to Singapore with the former electing to do the entire camp for his most recent fight there. Not for nothing had Chatri Sityodtong's facility earned a reputation as being the best in Asia.
2. Busan Team MAD
Dong Hyun Kim remains on of the best fighters in Asia and is riding a two-fight win streak while Kyung Ho Kang and Hyun Gyu Lim have both joined him in the UFC ranks, the former courtesy of winning the Road FC bantamweight grand prix. Bae Myung Ho would be the fourth Busan Team MAD representative on the UFC roster but couldn't get out of his contract with Legend FC, where he was the 170-pound champion, and is about to embark on his military service. Hae Jung Yang and Nam Jin Jo have not been so successful, but this team is still home to a high percentage of the Koreans currently in the UFC.
3. Krazy Bee
Krazy Bee has had a fantastic few months with Kotetsu Boku surprisingly winning the inaugural One FC belt, although he went on to lose the title to Shinya Aoki and Kyoji Horiguchi, establishing himself as one of the most exciting Bantamweight prospects in all of Asia. Yusuke Yachi is also riding a five fight winning streak while Atsushi Yamamoto has won his last couple of fights. Both Boku and Issei Tamura have big fights coming up soon with the former in One FC action in September and the latter making his Road FC debut in October 2013.
4. X'ian Sports University
Jumabieke Tuerxun seemed UFC bound but a contract dispute with Legend FC has delayed his debut. He still holds a stellar 14-0 record and Sanda champion Wang Guan, who won the inaugural RUFF featherweight belt, is also undefeated at 11-0-1. Flyweight submission specialist Meixuan Zhang also won a RUFF title and there is likely to be a significant contingent from this camp on the cast of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "China." Xian's full time MMA coach, Vaughn Anderson, is set to make his Bellator debut later this year and the camp has undoubtedly overtaken China Top Team as the best in the country.
5. Team Posse
Team Posse is home to three Road FC champions, Yui Chul Nam, Eun Soo Lee and Kil Woo Lee while Bae Young Kwon is a strong favourite to win the Korean promotion's featherweight strap. Eun Soo Lee hasn't fought since last November but is still the top middleweight in the country while Nam claimed the lightweight belt with a hard fought decision win over Takasake Kume. Kil Woo Lee was slightly fortunate to win Road FC's second Bantamweight tournament by split decision but is riding a three fight win streak while Kwon's only recent loss is to Eric Kelly at One FC and he's the favourite to win the 145 lbs tournament after taking out Michihiro Omigawa in the quarter finals.
6. Yokohoma Grand Slam
Michinori Tanaka might not have as high a profile as Horiguchi or Ueda because he has been fighting in the Philippines and Guam but his 8-0 record speaks for itself and he is the reigning PXC 135 lbs champion. It's also been a good year for Shinichi Kojima who beat top Filipino Flyweight Rey Docyogen and has a big fight coming up in September while Takeya Mizugaki, Michihiro Omigawa, Caol Uno and Hideo Tokoro all stop by regularly for sparring.
7. Korea Top Team
The bad news for Korea Top Team is that Chan Sung Jung left to set up his own team and took highly rated featherweight Yun Sun Lee with him. The good news is that Hyun Gyu Lim got his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) career off to the best possible start with a knockout win, Jang Yon Kim has earned himself a PXC title shot and Seung Hwan Bang and Octagon veteran Dongi Yang both made successful recent comebacks.
8. Phuket Top Team
Adam Kayoom is on course for a One FC welterweight title shot while Andrew Leone registered an impressive win on his long awaited One FC debut and is set to take on Kojima next. His brother, Anthony Leone, is also making a big impression in the Bellator bantamweight division where he is riding a three fight winning streak while Rodrigo Praxedes won the URCC middleweight title at the end of 2012.
9. Team Lakay
Team Lakay hit a brick wall in 2013. The No. 1 grassroots team in Asia, if not the world, consistently produces the best Filipino fighters from the talent pool in Baguio, but Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario, Crisanto Pitpitunge, Kevin Belingon, Rey Docyogen, Geje Eustaquio, Troy Bantiag and Jerome Wanawan are all coming off defeats. Dave Galera winning the URCC bantamweight belt earlier this year was a plus point in a tough period.
10. Tiger Muay Thai
Tiger Muay Thai doesn't have the most active fight team, but in Brian Ebersole and Roger Huerta it does have two of the most experienced coaches in all of Asia. Both are coming off losses but the former was close to a UFC title shot until his most recent defeat while the latter is tipped to be back in action for ONE FC before the end of the year, St. Pierre was the most high profile recent guest at the camp.
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