DALLAS — This weekend at UFC 211 will be a tad more hectic than the usual fight night for the coaches of American Top Team. Whether by chance or by design, athletes from the Coconut Creek camp will be competing in nine of the 13 fights lining the card of UFC 211, meaning ATT will be represented in roughly 70 percent of the bouts on the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view thus far of 2017.
“I’m busy, man. Busy,” one of the team’s head coaches, Mike Brown, told MMA Fighting with a laugh. “Not sleeping too much.”
Even in today’s era of super-teams often fielding multiple fighters on a single card, what ATT has managed to do with UFC 211 is fairly remarkable.
Not only are nine fighters from the camp competing on the same night, but many of them are doing so in bouts of major importance. All but one of the pay-per-view fights feature an ATT fighter, with the team hitting both title fights (Junior dos Santos and Joanna Jedrzejczyk), one likely No. 1 contender fight (Jorge Masvidal), two fights that could dramatically reshape the UFC rankings (Krzysztof Jotko and Dustin Poirier), and even the fight promoted as the featured UFC Fight Pass headliner (Jessica Aguilar).
“It’s a good atmosphere,” Brown says. “Everybody is training hard together and it’s motivating. People are pushing each other and everybody’s peaking at the same time. So in some ways, that makes things easier.
“The good thing is everybody’s weight is under control, so really, we’re just trying to stagger the workouts. Like, most of our guys are just working out and breaking a sweat early on their own, and then at night we’re just kinda staggering one hour after another. And luckily we have a big team of coaches, so we’ve got three or four coaches to each fighter, so everybody’s set. They’re all getting plenty of attention and plenty of help.”
Brown, alongside fellow ATT coaches Conan Silveira, Ricardo Liborio, Din Thomas, and many others, have grown used to the juggling act. Brown reckons there’s been handful of times the team has worked seven fighters in one night, with Brown having to wear several Reebok kits at once, corner a fighter, then sprint to the back post-fight and strip his outer layer of gear off as the next ATT fighter starts to make that walk. It’s all a little exhausting, and albeit a good problem to have, but never can he remember stacking a deck like the team will on Saturday night.
It’s quite a feat for a team whose roots date all the way back to 2001, but whose run of successes has hit an all-time high over recent years.
“Before we got big like that, we’ve always known that our room, in particular, was dangerous,” says Masvidal, one of the teams OGs. “We’ve always had killers on the payroll there, and it’s crazy. It’s just awesome that the world sees it, and it’s ATT versus the world, baby. We’ve got a lot of guys who come in from different places, and they just train one week and they go, ‘I get it now, why these guys are where they’re at.’ So it’s always awesome to be there. I’ve been there from the beginning, so it’s awesome to see these new generation people that want to get after it like we do.
“Now it’s a superpower, man. I’m just glad to be a part of it from the beginning.”
In many ways, UFC 211 is a culmination of sorts, a celebration of ATT a little over a year after the team opened it’s behemoth new 40,000 square foot facility in early 2016. Masvidal affectionately calls the new gym a “Wal-Mart of training,” a massive facility with a little something for everyone. And now more than ever, the accomplishments of the squad are attracting marquee names like Jedrzejczyk and dos Santos out to Coconut Creek.
For the originals who waved the ATT flag for years, it’s a tad surreal to see how far things have come.
“We have the best gym in the world, so it’s expected, right?” Aguilar says, laughing. “But it’s pretty cool. It’s been a pretty good vibe in the gym, and it’s good to have all the coaches and everybody here (in Dallas). It feels like home. Like, it feels like we’re just hanging out, you know? ... It’s been really, really cool. Everybody is on the same page. We all want to get in there and bang and win right and represent for the team. Nine of us on the card, it’s kind of like a whole ATT card.
“I’ve been with ATT for 11 years. I’m the first female that walked into ATT. I walked into the doors wanting to train jiu-jitsu. I became a fighter. I became a world champion. Now I have my own business inside the gym (a juice bar) and we’re all here. Come on. We’re living the dream, man.”
Not surprisingly, things get a little complicated when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of fight night. Some fighters gravitate towards different coaches while other coaches gravitate towards different fighters. In Brown’s case, he figures he’s only cornering three out of the nine fights, with the other assistant coaches and various individuals close to the athletes taking up the reigns for the other six.
It’s a good balance, he says, and even though he’ll have his hands plenty full on fight night, he’s not ruling out the day the team hits double-digits on a single UFC card.
“I think it’s history,” Brown says. “The team has been around a long time, so there’s been a lot of learning that’s taken place here. We’re growing, we’ve got a good system in place and a great coaching staff, and a great group of fighters who are all willing to help other, so it all kind of snowballs and keeps growing. It gets bigger and bigger all the time.”