American Kickboxing Academy has long been considered one of the best gyms in the world, but a track record of injuries often left the gym as a target of more criticism than praise. This past year saw that dynamic shift.
Between the success of team captain Daniel Cormier – who in 2018 became the second man to simultaneously hold two UFC titles, and also the first man to defend them both – but also Khabib Nurmagomedov, who finally fulfilled the championship potential long bestowed upon him, destroying the sport’s biggest superstar in the process, the gym has reached new heights, even by the team’s own admittedly lofty standards.
Rarely do two fighters from the same team present such a strong case for “Fighter of the Year,” but it’s hard to deny the attention that the performances of both Cormier and Nurmagomedov earned under the direction of head coach Javier Mendez.
Sure, Cain Velasquez remained sidelined throughout the year, and yes, Luke Rockhold transitioned to Florida and Henri Hooft’s Hard Knocks 365, but both longtime pillars of the AKA squad remain passionate with their loyalty to the crew in San Jose, Calif.