Once considered one of the best MMA teams in the world, X-Gym is no more.
Back in the day, when Anderson Silva reigned supreme in the UFC middleweight division and fighters like Rafael Cavalcante and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza held belts in Strikeforce, X-Gym was respected both inside and outside of Brazil. But those are only memories now.
Rogerio Camoes, strength and conditioning trainer and one of the leaders of X-Gym alongside boxing and MMA coach Josuel Distak, revealed to MMA Fighting on Thursday that the team closed its doors on Feb. 15. PVT first reported the news.
Created in 2005 as Black House, the team was re-branded as X-Gym one year later, and collected belts and historic victories for over a decade. The team was also the home of UFC fighters like Erick Silva, Alan Patrick, Paulo Thiago, Rodrigo Damm, Diego Nunes, and many more.
In an interview with MMA Fighting, Camoes explained the team’s demise, debated the concept of “teams” in today’s MMA world, revealed his plans for the future, and much more.
Why did you decide to end the team in 2018?
We sold the fitness gym about a year ago and tried to run it separately, only with the martial arts section, but during that period of the sale, I started to look for other things, things that I was never able to do while I had to run a MMA team because that demands a lot of your time and effort. I automatically started to distance myself from the team. At the same time, a few fighters decided to go a different direction as well. ‘Jacare’ moved to Florida, Alan (Patrick) left as well, Ary Farias. ... The team fell apart.
Before I went to the United States for Anderson’s camp, I believe in November, I called everyone and said I would not come back. I had no interest in it anymore and wanted to find another paths for me. The (team) naturally fell apart. Everyone found their own way.
That X-Gym from the golden days won’t exist anymore. I haven’t had any contact with Distak in a long time. It wasn’t an easy decision for me. I spent many years there. It started as Black House and became X-Gym, a really strong team with many stars, but everything in life has an expiration date.
Why did you decide to sell the fitness gym in the first place?
The gym was sold because my partner and I… it was a very good opportunity and we sold it. That’s why.
You mentioned fighters started to leave the team. Do you think that that was the main reason why X-Gym ended? Do you think that the team could have continued if they stayed with you, maybe in a different place?
I think so, but the fitness gym alone already changed a lot of things. We had a huge structure there, some high-level strength and conditioning equipment for athletes and fighters. We had a huge space outside the gym as well, where we did conditioning training. It was insane. That also contributed because we didn’t have the same structure to continue that work anymore. That’s something that made me look for other ways, other places to continue my work.
How is your relationship with Distak today?
There’s no relationship anymore because we don’t have that coexistence at work anymore. The last time I saw him was at Warlley’s fight in Poland, and I had already told him I’d leave the team. Warlley was my last work with the team. After that, I never spoke with (Distak) again.
Do you still work in MMA?
I do, man, steady and strong. I still work with most of them. Warlley, Ary Farias, Rafael ‘Feijao’ — I still have to work on this last chapter of his career. Anderson … we don’t know what will happen there (with Silva), but I’m still with him because anything can happen and (he could) fight again. I continue working with all of them, most of them.
When I started this 20 years ago, I had no structure to do my work in strength and conditioning, but I still did it. Vitor (Belfort), Carlos (Barreto), Wallid (Ismail), that’s how I started in MMA. I had no gym, but still did my work wherever I could. This is who I am and it doesn’t change anything for me. I went a million times to the United States to train Anderson after the move.
My work continues because this is something I love doing. I’m focusing on the young talents now. Ary Farias has a bright future ahead of him. And I’m investing a lot in Warlley Alves. He’s still young in the UFC, 12-2 in MMA, a TUF Brazil winner. I understand that I have to work with the young prospects otherwise there will be no fighters in the future. The old ones retire and there’s no young talent.
Do you think that Anderson Silva’s doping case affected the team in any way?
No, no. There’s no correlation. It didn’t even affect him. For everything this guy has done for the sport, that fades away with time. How many fighters have tested positive and no one talks about it anymore? Vitor, (Alistair) Overeem… That fades away with time. There’s no correlation, even because he’s doing his camps in the United States, so you can’t associate (with the team).
Have you considered creating another team in the future?
I can’t say no. I still have a big dream, opening a high-level training center outside of Rio de Janeiro, away from everything, at the top of a mountain, with no internet, where no one can go…
Like a Brazilian Big Bear?
Exactly. Something that fighters would go there and eat, train and sleep. It’s a three-month camp, so you’d stay there and only train and sleep. Forget about your wife. You’d stay there for three months, away from your wife, your family, because that’s the model you have in countries where sports are at the highest level, especially Olympic sports. I think that that would be like bringing MMA closer to a higher level of performance.
To tell you the truth, it bothers me when an athlete is at home and gets late to training and blames traffic or any other problem. Bullsh*t. He’s late because he’s undisciplined. If you’re in a training center where you have nothing else to do, there’s no excuse not to train. You’re creating high-level athletes that way. That’s what they do in wrestling and judo. This is my area, I know what I’m talking about. Nothing takes your focus away when you’re training like this.
I spent 45 days at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in 1987 for a judo championship. As a coach, my dream is to do something like this for my athletes. I can’t say ‘never’ because if I have the opportunity to build something like this, I will lead a team. But I still have my dreams in MMA. Despite all these years and what I’ve accomplished with Anderson, to train someone that was considered the greatest of all-time for eight years, I still have my dreams. Despite being 60, I believe I still have another 10 years in this.
You believe that this type of training center wouldn’t work in MMA because fighters don’t get paid enough, or because they are not dedicated enough?
I think that there’s this side, where the guy doesn’t want to get out of his comfort zone, and there’s the investment. Anderson was a guy that invested a lot of money to get a team of fighters and sparring partners to create this model for him. He was close to his family, but it was very close to this model. That’s why he was a champion for so long. He did what was right. He took everybody there. Everybody was away from their families and had only one purpose there: Train Anderson Silva. You’re focused and concentrated on doing one job and nothing takes your attention from it.
You mentioned that you still have dreams in the sport. What are those dreams?
Oh man, my biggest dream is to have another UFC champion. I was close to doing it with ‘Jacare.’ We were so close. When he should have gotten the title shot, they gave it to Dan Henderson instead. It was bullsh*t. If ‘Jacare’ fought (Michael) Bisping, he’d win, for sure. There’s no way he wouldn’t beat Bisping. Bisping is an excellent fighter, but ‘Jacare’… He was ready, that was his moment. I was going to have another UFC champion but they didn’t allow me to, and that left me with that feeling of emptiness.
But I still feel I have another opportunity here. I’m investing a lot in Warlley Alves, he’s such a great talent. Even though he has two losses, the guy that defeated him (Kamaru Usman) — in a close decision — in running through everyone. I bet everything that he will be fighting for the belt. He’s so young. We still have four or five years to make him a top (fighter) in the division. My dream is not over, brother.
What was the greatest moment you had over the past decade with X-Gym?
Oh, man, that’s Anderson Silva’s entire career. A special moment with Anderson was when he fought Vitor and became a huge star after that. He was the champion for a while, but that changed everything. And also Strikeforce, with ‘Feijao’ and ‘Jacare’ winning belts on the same night. We had three wins that night, two belts and Andre Galvao’s win. That was unforgettable.
I came from the Carlson Gracie team, so I started with his fighters. I had the privilege of working with Carlson Gracie, going to fights with him, being in the corner with him. I had my background with some of the best of all-time, the toughest guys in real fights, vale tudo fights with no gloves. I had the privilege of working with the best fighters ever.
Do you think we’ll ever see another team like X-Gym, with so many stars under the same roof, or are we going in the direction of the boxing model, with fighters building teams around themselves?
I think that that format is over. With all the changes in the sport — conditioning, technique and strategy, different rules and fighting in a different way — I think it’s no more. I think that Carlson Gracie brought that spirit of a team and I learned from him. It was like a family, they would die for Carlson Gracie. That’s very interesting. It’s not like that anymore in MMA or in any other area in the world. Everyone has their own interest. That concept is getting old. You can’t expect from a fighter something that they did to Carlson Gracie 30 years ago. He was a role model.
Who would you compare to Carlson Gracie today? It’s tough, man. I can only see one guy, Rodrigo ‘Minotauro.’ I can see that with his team, and he’s a guy that came from Carlson Gracie — it’s actually (Ricardo) De La Riva, but at the end of the day, it’s Carlson Gracie as well. Rodrigo is that legacy from the past. Maybe he can still maintain his team with that spirit, but after that, no one has built a team. Anderson Silva, no one. I think it’s over, brother. It’s over. It’s going to be exactly like that, a fighter building a structure that gravitates around him.