With Founding Members Gone, Xtreme Couture Experiences a Changing of the Guard


Randy Couture at UFC 52There is no training camp in mixed martial arts that doesn’t go through an overhaul every now and again, and it’s happening this time to the Las Vegas based team Xtreme Couture.

Founded in 2006 by UFC legend Randy Couture, Xtreme Couture didn’t take long to make a splash on the scene as one of the biggest gyms in all of mixed martial arts, producing top fighters as more and more great names moved to Las Vegas to work there.

With Couture at the helm, the team produced a bevy of UFC talent over the years and new fighters came in by the droves to work with the legendary coach and his staff.

But like anything in this world, sometimes change is going to happen – for better or for worse.

Following Couture’s retirement from MMA in 2011, the former heavyweight and light heavyweight champion has been spending the majority of his time in front of the camera as he works to stake his claim as an actor in Hollywood. Couture also pops up from time to time doing MMA commentary for Fox, but his time is spread thin and his role at the gym that bares his name has shrunk over the years.

When the gym was founded, there was a laundry list of UFC fighters working there like Gray Maynard, Tyson Griffin, Mike Pyle, Forrest Griffin, and Martin Kampmann.

Lately, however, you won’t find many of those names still walking into Xtreme Couture for their fight camps.

Following a 2011 loss to Frankie Edgar at UFC 136, lightweight contender Gray Maynard decided to pack up shop and move from Las Vegas to California to begin work with American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). Maynard has stated on many occasions that his exit from Xtreme Couture was amicable, but he needed a change of scenery with his first child on the way and the team in San Jose, Calif., provided him with a fresh start.

Soon after that, Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler also bolted from Las Vegas and relocated to San Diego, where he began working with the coaches and team at Alliance Training Center. Much like Maynard, no harsh words were ever said about Xtreme Couture, but he felt it was time to move onto a new training camp.

With Maynard now in San Jose, he soon called his close friend Tyson Griffin to come out to help him prepare for his fight against Clay Guida earlier this summer. Griffin enjoyed his time so much working with the team at AKA that he too decided this was the time to make a fresh start in California, and move away from the team in Las Vegas.

“I was trying a lot of new things out and I don’t think a lot of those new things helped me. I’m going to go back and do what I did that got me to the top in the first place and see what happens,” Griffin told MMAWeekly Radio about his exit from Xtreme Couture.

“It’s about the atmosphere in the gym. I need a certain atmosphere to allow me to have fun and I need to have fun if I’m going to be there every day training hard. The fight doesn’t have to be fun. The fight is a fight. I feel AKA has what we could’ve had and started to have in Vegas and it kind of fell apart. I feel like AKA has got that same atmosphere and that same kind of mentality there. So, I feel like it’s a great new start and a great place to get back on the winning track and put a win streak together.”

With Maynard, Chandler and Griffin now gone, the lightweights at Xtreme Couture started to run a little thin, but maybe the biggest exit was the one that came next.

Original Xtreme Couture member Mike Pyle also recently left the gym in favor of doing his own training camp to prepare for fights. Pyle was not only a mainstay at Xtreme Couture, but rarely would you ever hear an interview or commentary from a fighter at that gym not credit the veteran welterweight for helping them in their preparation for a fight.

“It is what it is, I’ve also left Xtreme Couture myself. I just needed a change. I preferred just to bring in my coaches during my camp and focus everything around me, like a Team Pyle rather than a Team Couture. I need that one-on-one deal, I need all the attention on me and my camp, so there’s no sense in being stuck in the mud,” said Pyle when talking to MMAWeekly Radio.

“I moved on down the road, one of my close friends, one of my best friends, he’s like family to me, John Wood, who is formerly from Throwdown, a gym here in Vegas. I’m just pretty much keeping myself over at Throwdown.”

Like Maynard, Chandler, and Griffin before him, Pyle promises there was no bad blood in his exit from Xtreme Couture, it was just time to move on.

“I mean, there’s no drama, no drama at all. I like a change every now and then. It’s good to have some fresh eyes on me; new guys at the gym. No big deal, nothing at all,” said Pyle.

In addition to those exits, other notable names like Mac Danzig and Vitor Belfort have also relocated to new training facilities in other states to pick up their work for upcoming fights.

Longtime Xtreme Couture fighter Frank Trigg says that the recent exodus of many of the original fighters from the gym is a big loss, and it was definitely sad to see them go.

“It’s a very weird time right now. The namesake (Randy Couture) is gone; he’s moved on to the next stage of his life. Randy’s moved on to doing movies, he’s in L.A. right now finishing up a movie for the next six weeks. Right now the gym’s in a weird spot because guys like Gray (Maynard) and Mike Chandler left, Mike Pyle just left, these guys were kind of the core group,” Trigg told MAWeekly.com.

With Couture busy in other avenues of his life, other trainers like Ron Frazier and Gil Martinez have also moved on from the gym, but that doesn’t mean other top coaches haven’t filled their spots. K-1 legend Ray Sefo now heads the striking at Xtreme Couture, while grappling ace Neil Melanson leads the way for the fighters working on their ground games.

What’s happening at Xtreme Couture is really no different than what’s already happened at many major gyms all over the world. American Top Team watched some of the mainstays of the gym leave to begin training at a new facility in Florida that eventually became the Blackzilians, but they persevered and added a ton of new talent including UFC featherweight Dustin Poirier, Nik Lentz and George Sotiropoulos.

It’s no different for Xtreme Couture, who will begin plugging the holes in the damn for the ex-members that have moved on.

“You’re looking at a changing of the guard. B.J. Penn just got his butt kicked by Rory MacDonald, four years ago the same Rory MacDonald you saw versus the B.J. Penn of four years ago, and Rory gets beat severely, but the game has changed. It’s like the Pittsburgh Steelers or the L.A. Lakers, even if you have the same guys, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win all the time,” Trigg said about the team.

“There was a time when (Pat) Miletich had the best camp. They had all the champs – Jens Pulver, Matt Hughes, and Tim Sylvia – but those guys all moved on. The game changes.”

Stay tuned to MMAWeekly.com for all the latest MMA news and notes from around the world.

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