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Reign falls: SoCal fighters disperse after Mark Munoz sells gym

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Patrick Cummins was training Tuesday with Michael Bisping. Kendall Grove was there, too. Then Mark Munoz walked in with some of his coaches.

It was almost like old times -- the way things were at Reign Training Center. This, though, was about 16 miles away at the RVCA gym.

Last week, Munoz announced that he would be selling Reign in advance of the final fight of his career, against Luke Barnatt at UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Faber on May 16 in the Philippines. The decision left several fighters scrambling, not just for a new gym, but for the atmosphere they experienced at Reign.

Cummins said that he and Bisping spoke Tuesday about where they might end up. They came to a consensus that it isn't necessarily about geography or facilities.

"We both kind of decided it's not really about where you train, it's the group of guys," Cummins told MMAFighting.com. "That's what was so special about Reign. It was more than just about a place to train -- it was the relationships."

There is no current plan for the fighters from Reign to go somewhere en masse. It's more likely they will be scattered about across Southern California. Most of them spent time at multiple gyms anyway. Right now, RVCA in Costa Mesa, about 20 minutes from where Reign was in Lake Forest is kind of like the "holding position," according to Cummins. But it might not be big enough to accommodate all the Reign alums.

Bisping will be doing the rounds at his regular places: RVCA, Misfits MMA in Garden Grove and Chute Boxe Long Beach, per his manager Audie Attar. RVCA, a private club, is the home of Bisping's longtime boxing coach Jason Parillo, a striking guru.

Cummins is not 100 percent sure where he'll spend most of his time, but RVCA is an option. He also has a good relationship with Rafael Cordeiro and Fabricio Werdum at Kings MMA in Huntington Beach.

Brendan Schaub, who is moving down from the UFC's heavyweight division to light heavyweight, told MMAFighting.com that he'll be spending most of his time at Gracie Academy in Torrance and Black House in Redondo Beach. Schaub was a part of Lyoto Machida's camp at Black House for the Luke Rockhold fight.

"I'm a lone wolf," Schaub joked.

Schaub said he'll also be doing private wrestling training with Ryan Parsons, Cummins' manager. Schaub and Cummins are longtime training partners.

"He's a guy that has to be there for my camps," Cummins said of Schaub. "I'm sure we'll figure something out."

Jake Ellenberger, a longtime member of Reign, has been doing his training camps recently at Glendale Fighting Club, the home of UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. He'll continue to go there as well as Gracie Academy and other places around LA. Ellenberger also trains with wrestling coach Darryl Christian at Studio 540, a relatively new facility in Solana Beach near San Diego that was opened by Metamoris backer Robert Zeps.

"I knew there were some tough decisions ahead of us for a while," Ellenberger said of Reign. "It's unfortunate as far as the team goes, the camaraderie, the team training camp, that portion of it. At the end of the day, it's a business. Mark has gotta do what's best for him and his family. And I totally understand it. It's one of the toughest businesses to be successful in."

Munoz also told MMAFighting.com this week that he would still be coaching some of the former Reign fighters in wrestling despite the gym being sold.

As for some of the others, Grove, Raphael Davis and Jay Silva have been spotted lately at RVCA. Bellator's Brett Cooper has been spending time at Bodyshop MMA in Lakewood with the likes of Emanuel Newton and Antonio McKee. Tony Ferguson will remain at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu and Triunfo MMA in Costa Mesa. Jessica Penne has already been doing most of her training at Alliance MMA in San Diego and Studio 540. Kailin Curran has done some work recently at Kings MMA.

Southern California has no shortage of MMA facilities, but as far as places you can go for pure MMA sparring there aren't as many as you would think, Ellenberger said. So Reign will be a significant loss.

"I think Reign was a huge success," Ellenberger said. "They built a team, they built a family and just a really great atmosphere to train in. And I couldn't say enough about the gym."

Munoz opened the facility in 2009. He told Ariel Helwani on a recent episode of The MMA Hour that it wasn't an easy decision to close its doors, but one he had to make for his family.

"For me, my son is going into high school, and my daughter has got two more years of college, and I want to be a dad that leaves a legacy with his children," Munoz said. "I want to be able to spend time with them. These past six years have gone by so fast, and I haven't really gotten to spend time with them. I've been spending 12, 13 hours days at the gym, teaching, coaching. And then I've been doing a lot of my community work with my anti-bullying campaign, all the while trying to be a husband to a wife and four kids, and then being a UFC on top of that.

"It's been a hard year as far as injuries, a lot of stress. So I just want to simplify my life."

Munoz has surely left an indelible mark on the fighters he worked with at Reign. Cummins said Munoz's weekly speeches had to do with making your teammates better, growing together and being appreciative of your training partners. It might take some time before those who went there regularly get that kind of thing again.

"It was the first place I felt like this is where I'm gonna train, this feels like home to me," Cummins said. "Now not having that is very weird."

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