It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that MMA is blowing up in Asia. Even at its infancy stage, the Asian MMA scene is red hot especially with the rise of ONE Fighting Championship. More new fans are being won over every day and more fans are looking to actually train and learn combat sports.
With the rise in interest of the sport, it comes as no surprise that MMA gyms/ schools are popping up everywhere. Even in a small nation like Singapore, training in martial arts has become the “in” thing. However, you have to ask yourself, which gyms are the best if you’re really serious about this whole fighting thing.
That’s where we come in.
After numerous questions from fans and our readers, we decided to compile our list of the Top 10 MMA gyms in Asia. We really spent countless hours arguing over who should be included in the list and consulted industry experts for their opinions as well.
Our criteria was based on:
- a) authenticity and quality of the instructor team
- b) success of the fight team
- c) quality and number of fighters coming out of the gym
- d) the amount of success the school has had in producing excellent students
- e) the amount of success the school has achieved in terms of growth and success
- f) the upside of the gym and how well we think they’ll do down the road
With all that being said, here is our list of the 10 Best MMA Gyms in Asia:
1. Evolve Mixed Martial Arts
It’s an absolute no brainer that Evolve MMA is at the top of the list. We agree with virtually every other Asian MMA expert that Evolve MMA is #1 – bar none. Evolve MMA has the deepest roster of fighters and the highest concentration of champions of any gym in the world.
While being only 3.5 years old, Evolve has quickly become the no.1 gym in Asia and one of the top gyms in the world. The Evolve fight team boasts an insane roster made up of DREAM Lightweight Champion Shinya Aoki, UFC fighter Rafael Dos Anjos, WBA Boxing World Champion Yodsanan Sityodtong and ONE FC fighters Zorobabel Moreira, Eddie Ng, Rodrigo Ribeiro, Alex Silva, Leandro Issa, Brian Choi, Mitch Chilson, Jake Butler, and several others. Even legendary folks like Rich Franklin, Ben Askren, Greg Jackson, Renzo Gracie, Renato Babalu Sobral, and others have made their pilgrimage to the Asian Mecca of Martial Arts, Evolve MMA.
The Evolve instructor team is also something that leaves us in complete awe as well. It has a roster of 51 instructors that are made up of Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, boxing, no-gi grappling and wrestling champions. If that’s not enough, they even brought in former US Olympian and long time training partner of Dan Henderson, Heath Sims as their head instructor for wrestling and MMA. Founder and head coach Yodchatri Sityodtong himself has won accolades including being named one of the best coaches in the world by MSN. The only other MMA coach named on that list was Greg Jackson.
If all that wasn’t enough, we’ve heard strong rumors from reliable sources (the kind that would kill me if I revealed them), that Evolve is in discussions with Japanese superstars Tatsuya Kawajiri and Kitaoka Satoru, Muay Thai World Champion, Yodsaenklai Fairtex and newly signed UFC fighter Bibiano Fernandes. There is a very high chance that you’ll see these guys being part of the Evolve Fight Team down the road.
We could tell you more as to why we picked Evolve as number 1 but we think that there wouldn’t be enough time and space left in this article to fit it all in. To simply put it in TFN terms, Evolve deserved the top spot because it’s just down MAD awesome.
2. Korean Top Team
With the rise of ROAD FC in South Korea and the interest in the UFC, the Korean people are getting more and more into MMA. One of the best gyms to come out of Korea and perhaps in the whole of Asia is Korean Top Team. Based out of Seoul, KTT is most well known for producing UFC Veteran and possibly future UFC Featherweight Champion, “The Korean Zombie” Chan-Sung Jung.
Unlike many other MMA gyms that have one star fighter and many other students who keep the school afloat while pushing a top star, Korean Top Team has produced many other good fighters namely, former UFC middleweight Dongi “Ox” Yang and other Asian prospects such as Doo Ho Choi, Jang Yong Kim and Hyun Gyu Lin.
Under the watchful eye of founder and head coach of KTT, Dong Jin-ha, these Korean fighters receive a very high level of training both in terms of stand up and on the ground. The Korean Zombie is proof of the training they receive as Jung has always been one of the most consistent and technical fighters in the UFC today. Don’t believe us? Then you should watch Jung make Leonard Garcia tap with a freaking Twister. We rest our case. The Korean Zombie is definitely one of the most successful Asians to have ever competed in the UFC. Korean Top Team is definitely one of the best MMA gyms out there and deserves to be no.2 on our list.
3. Team Lakay
Team Lakay is without a doubt the best MMA Gym in the Philippines. Fighting out of Baguio, Team Lakay has consistently produced the best fighters in the Philippines and some of the best in Asia. For those of you who don’t know, Baguio is situated at very high altitudes. Many have attributed the exceptional cardio of Team Lakay fighters to the high altitude environment in which they train in.
The Team Lakay Fight Team boast big names such as URCC Champions Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario, Kevin Belingon and Roy Docyogen. Folayang, Honorio and Belingon are all contracted ONE FC fighters as well. In total, Team Lakay has 20 active fighters on their team and 10 instructors who teach boxing, Wushu and MMA. Currently 8 of those 20 fighters are competing in Philippine’s no.1 promotion, the URCC.
Under the watchful eye of Mark Sangiao, who himself is regarded as one of the best coaches in Asia, Team Lakay fighters have been dominant in the URCC and now look to showcase Filipino MMA across Asia. Team Lakay’s methods of training has produced some of the most durable, tough and aggressive fighters in all of Asia. In fact, the only reason why Team Lakay didn’t rank higher in this list is due to their lack of international exposure which we’re sure they’re trying their best to catch up on.
4. China Top Team
China is largely considered a future hot bed for Asian MMA fighters with its massive population and its growing interest in the sport. One gym that is leading the MMA revolution in China is China Top Team (also known by some as Beijing Jiu-jitsu Academy). CTT is China’s first BJJ and MMA academy, established in 1998. The team is overseen by the very well respected Professor Ruy Menezes.
It’s no surprise that China Top Team’s star pupil is none other than former WEC and current UFC featherweight Zhang Tiequan. Zhang has been the most successful Chinese MMA fighter thus far. China Top Team is constantly providing a high level of training for young aspiring Chinese fighters and it’s showing, as many of its up and comers are competing in promotions such as RUFF and Legend. It’s only a matter of time before we see more CTT fighters in the big leagues of MMA, namely the UFC and ONE FC.
5. Krazy Bee
Krazee Bee is undoubtedly one of the best MMA gyms in Japan today. It’s most notably known for being the home of Norifumi Yamamoto, aka Kid Yamamoto, a former UFC, DREAM and Shooto veteran. Other notable fighters fighting out of the gym include Issei Tamura, Yamamoto Atsushi, Boku Koutetsu and many other young up and comers.
Lead by head coach Sergio Cunha, Krazy Bee is well known for its exceptional wrestling and ground game. This is definitely an MMA gym to look out for as it has a huge upside. Expect a number of hot prospects coming out of this gym to compete in top promotions in Asia such as ONE FC.
6. Phuket Top Team
One of the fastest rising and hottest MMA gyms in Asia has to be Phuket Top Team. Run and owned by Boyd Clarke, PTT has achieved a lot in the Asian MMA scene despite being in the scene for only a year. Phuket Top Team boasts a fight team made up of ONE FC fighters Andrew Leone, Rodrigo Praxedes, Adam Kayoom, current ONE FC fighter and former UFC fighter Roger Huerta and Bellator’s J.J. Ambrose. On top of these well known names, PTT has many more pro fighters competing in MMA promotions and in Muay Thai.
PTT’s instructor team is made up of authentic Thai Muay Thai instructors, Brazilian black belts and well known boxing coach Barry Robinson. While PTT lacks the history that some of the gyms on the list might have, it definitely seems to have a very bright future ahead of it. We’re putting our money on PTT and it’s fighters on being major players in the future of Asian MMA.
7. Abe Ani Combat Club (AACC)
Another deserving Japanese MMA gym on the list definitely is the Abe Ani Combat Club. The gym is very well known for producing arguably, the best “pound for pound” female fighter, Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii. Other notable fighters who have come out from the gym include Hiroyuki Abe, Masatoshi Abe and Hitomi Akano.
Both Hiroyuki Abe and Megumi Fujii act as head trainers for the gym. The world class facility and high level of training available at the gym is the reason why names such as Strikeforce’s Josh Barnett picks AACC as his choice gym to train at when he’s in Japan. The gym is well known throughout Japan and internationally as well and definitely remains one of the best MMA gyms in the region.
8. Legacy Gym
Legacy Gym is owned by K-1 veteran, current ONE FC fighter and definitely one of the most popular fighters in Asian MMA, Ole “Iron Fist” Laursen. The gym currently has 2 locations, one in rural Ubon Ratchatani, Thailand and another in Boracay, the Philippines.
Ole’s Legacy Gym boast a very good instructor team with veteran MMA fighter Vaughn Anderson as the head MMA trainer and a large team of Muay Thai instructors led by veteran coach Ajarn Nimnuan. Unlike many MMA gyms in Thailand, Legacy gym remains “un-commercialized” and remains true to its roots, which is to train fighters. Legacy in Boracay is a new venture for Ole that will definitely flourish given that the Philippines is one of the hottest countries for Asian MMA today.
Legacy gym is without a doubt the go to place for fighters who want a real “old school” experience with little distractions from the “outside world”.
Muayfit is leading the pack of MMA gyms in Malaysia. It currently has the biggest roster of fighters coming out of any MMA gym in Malaysia. Muayfit’s fight team, The Elite Fight Team, is made up of notable names such as ONE FC’s Arnaud Lepont, Eric Kelly, Peter Davis and up and comers Raymond Tiew and Allamurad Karayev.
While catering to the general public as well with classes in Muay Thai, boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga, Muayfit has put a strong emphasis on its professional fight team and the progression of its pro-fighters. This can be seen with 4 of Muayfit’s fighters being on the upcoming ONE FC: Destiny of Warriors card. If you’re a fighter in Malaysia, Muayfit will be your best option.
Much like the rest of Asia, the MMA scene in Hong Kong is blowing up with promotions such as Legend FC appearing. A stand out MMA gym in Hong Kong is definitely JABMMA which has a very good instructor team consisting of former top ranked World Boxing Organisation cruiser weight Lawrence Tauasa and BJJ World Champion Rodrigo Caporal. Caporal himself is an active MMA fighter who currently competes and represents JABMMA in RUFF China. The gym is one of the more successful gyms in Hong Kong thus far and is well known for its MMA training.
Tiger Muay Thai
While Tiger Muay Thai used to be one of the top gyms in Asia, they’ve recently fallen slightly off the radar due to some internal structuring. However, with the announcement of new head coach, UFC fighter, Brian Ebersole, we see Tiger Muay Thai getting back in the mix down the road.
Juggernaut Fight Club
Run by well known Singaporean boxer Arvind Lalwani, Juggernaut Fight Club (aka JFC) has become a well known gym in the Singapore MMA scene and has amassed quite a following. JFC is most well known for its top product Quek Kim Hock who is one of the most popular fighters in Singapore today. JFC’s focused has been always been on building youth and local talent and we won’t be surprised if they break into the top ten very soon.