Several fighters are leaving one of the most high-profile MMA camps in the country.
Myles Jury and Michael Chandler are among five fighters departing Alliance in San Diego for Power MMA in Gilbert, Ariz., citing the need for change and more individualized coaching. Also heading to Power MMA, the home of Ryan Bader, C.B. Dollaway and others, will be Johnny Case, Justin Lawrence and Luis Saldana. Grappling coach Neil Melanson also left Alliance for the Blackzilians.
"We just wanted to get more hands-on coaching," Jury said. "We needed coaches that were a little more proactive. We needed top-level coaching. That was the biggest thing. We're fighting in the toughest organization in the world and we just started looking around for training camps and for the coaching we needed."
Remaining with Alliance are fighters like Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Jeremy Stephens, Wilson Reis and Ross Pearson. Alexander Gustafsson also does part of his training camps there and recent additions have included female fighters Bec Rawlings and Angela Magana.
Jury, Chandler, Case, Lawrence and Saldana are all lighter-weight fights and regular training partners. So they all decided on going to the same place. Jury and Case have already moved to Arizona.
Chandler said when Melanson left, it sealed the deal for him, though he will still be living in San Diego and going to Alliance on occasion. Chandler's manager, Dave Martin, co-owns Power MMA, so going there was a no-brainer -- especially since Martin made a deal with Chandler's striking coach, Gil Martinez. Both Martinez and Melanson were Chandler's coaches going back to his days at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.
"I think me and Gil are a good, good fit for each other," Chandler said. "He's a great coach and really one that can be accredited for a lot of my success from Day One. Getting back together with him was a no-brainer."
Alliance head coach Eric Del Fierro is known as one of the best in his role in all of MMA. But he is a full-time firefighter and only at the gym three days a week. The fighters departing did not feel like that was enough for them.
"Eric is a great coach, but he's really hands off," Jury said. "He has a hands-off approach. I needed somebody who invested more time into me.
"I don't have anything against Eric Del Fierro or Alliance. It's just what I need as an athlete, they really couldn't provide it for me. Me and Eric left on good terms. I don't have any animosity or bad blood with him. It was just time to move on in life."
Added Chandler: "For me, especially, it was a very, very clean break. When I'm here in San Diego, I still have an open-door policy. Alliance is still going to be a part of my life, and Del Fierro is still going to be a friend of mine and maybe even a coach when I'm here. And [I'll be] training with Dominick and training with Phil and training with Ross."
Del Fierro didn't want to make a big fuss out of the departures. He said fighters leave gyms all the time.
"My door is always open to these guys," Del Fierro said. "I wish them good luck. They're great athletes, and I'm sure they'll do good in their chosen fight path."
Case said another factor was financial. Alliance takes 10 percent of a fighter's purse for training fees, while Power MMA only takes five percent. Case also said Alliance takes 10 percent of any performance bonus a UFC fighter wins. He won a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus in his UFC debut last September and was not happy about giving up 10 percent of it.
"It made me sick to my stomach to write that check," Case said.
Living in Arizona (Power MMA is in a suburb of Phoenix), which has a much cheaper cost of living than Southern California, has also allowed Case to move his family out with him, including his two young children. When he was training at Alliance, they stayed back in Iowa where Case is originally from.
"That's a major positive change in my life," Case said.
The five fighters leaving are hoping to take their games to the next level at Power MMA, where former UFC fighter Aaron Simpson is the head coach.
"[Del Fierro has] gotta commit to a 40-hour-a-week job and I need somebody that's there with me every day," Jury said. "He's gotta work around his work schedule. At the end of the day, it does kind of affect it. It's less attention he can give to the fighters. I would be lying if I said, 'Oh no it's cool, a coach that only showed up three days a week is comparable to a coach who's there every day.'"