MMA Madness has ranked the top ten MMA cities in terms of general interest of the population, the number of MMA gyms per capita, and the reputation for producing (or hosting) great champions.
“Honorable mention: Hollywood, CA; Chicago, IL; Atlantic City, NJ; San Jose, CA
10. Cincinnati, Ohio
9. Houston, Texas
8. Anaheim, CA
7. Albuquerque, New Mexico
6. Sacramento, CA
5. West Palm Beach / Ft. Lauderdale, Florida- For those of you who have been hiding in a cave the last few years, you may not know that the West Palm Beach/Ft. Lauderdale area has become one of the hot spots for American MMA. Host to one of the worlds top MMA gyms, American Top Team, you can catch fighters like JZ Cavalcante, Din Thomas, Marcus Aurelio, Cole Miller, Thiago Alves, Denis Kang, Jeff Monson, Jorge Santiago, Dustin Denes, Wilson Gouveia, Mike Brown, Antonio Silva, Glaison Tibau, Benji Radach, Luigi Fioravanti, Charles McCarthy, Rory Singer, and Jorge Masvidal walking the streets of this beautiful city.
4. Hilo, Hawaii- It was nearly impossible for me to identify one city in Hawaii as the heart of their MMA culture so I took the easy route and chose the location of their most acclaimed gym, BJ Penn Academy, home to one of the greatest fighters in the history of MMA. Many people who have never had a chance to visit Hawaii have no idea how popular the sport has become on every island, and if it weren’t for the lack of more champions (and the spread of popularity over many cities), I would have put Hilo even higher. Many of today’s biggest MMA stars flock to Hilo to train with the great BJ Penn and you could argue that he has done more for his city in terms of lifting the popularity of the sport than any other fighter not named Pat Miletich. With so many MMA gyms and a host of top notch organizations like ICON Sport, expect their ranking to climb in the coming years as they develop some of their young talent into tomorrow’s superstars.
3. Davenport, Iowa- I am sure it is no surprise that Davenport is on this list, but it may surprise some that it isn’t higher up. What separates Davenport from the two cities ranked higher is its lack of any big name events or shows. I hear that they are having difficulties getting MMA even sanctioned in Iowa which is unfortunate due to the wealth of talent they have there. I know that I don’t need remind all of you how much Pat Miletich has done for MMA or how much talent comes out of Miletich Fighting Systems, but let me just give an abbreviated list of the many accomplished fighters and champions. Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Jens Pulver, Jeremy Horn, Spencer Fisher, Robbie Lawler, Jason Black, Tony Fryklund, Drew McFedries, Josh Neer, Ben Rothwell, Bart Palazewski, Rory Markham, Ryan McGivern, Sam Hoger, Mike Ciesnolevicz, Laverne Clark. It’s hard to imagine MMA without these great athletes and although I find myself rooting against them more often than not, I have to give credit where credit is due.
2. Portland / Gresham, Oregon- This really should be a tie between Davenport and Portland, but with Portland hosting the IFL and countless Sportfight events, I gave them the nod for number two. Much like Davenport, it is hard to picture MMA without the contributions made by what is statistically the greatest fight camp in the world, Team Quest (go to sherdog to check the validity of this claim if you like). I know that Randy has recently moved from TQ and Portland to Las Vegas, and Dan Henderson has started up Team Quest Temecula, but both of these great champions spent the majority of their careers in their Gresham facility (a suburb of Portland). With names like Matt Lindland, Ed Herman, Matt Horwich, Josh Burkman, Chael Sonnen, Josh Haynes, Art Santore, Chris Wilson, Ryan Schultz, Heath Sims, and formerly Chris Leben and Nate Quarry all making names for themselves in the world of MMA, I can’t even say Portland without thinking MMA. With more MMA gyms there than you can count, I see Portland continuing their strong presence in the world on MMA and my sources tell me Portland will finally host a UFC event in 2008.
1. Las Vegas, Nevada- I’m not sure I need to justify this pick, but without Las Vegas sanctioning the sport in its infancy despite the pressure from politicians like John McCain, there would be no UFC and no MMA here in the states. Las Vegas not only hosts the biggest and baddest events year after year but many fighters like Randy Couture and Forrest Griffin have flocked there to train and I expect this trend to continue….oh, how I love Las Vegas.”
One thing is for sure, as the sport of MMA grows, we will see more and more cities fighting to earn one of these top spots.