This week the team at Xtreme Couture was featured on Bloody Elbow. In their exclusive interviews the fighters addressed their upcoming bouts and the challenges that stand in the road ahead of them. In addition to sharing insight on their current agendas, each fighter also took the time to share intimate details of their affiliation to their gym and the relationships they share with each other. Every story has a beginning and that is where we started.
Gray Maynard: ""I wound up working with Randy Couture when he was preparing for Chuck Liddell. There were a group of guys like Forrest, Mike Pyle, Jay Hieron and a few others who came out to help him. At the time we were training at the TUF gym when the TV show wasn't going on. I was working out there with them and we just kept going after Randy's fight was over. Then we started helping Forrest prepare for his fight with Tito Ortiz. Mike Pyle and Jay had smaller fights scheduled as well at the time so I was helping them guys as well. Word started to get around and Martin Kampmann, who Pyle met when he was in Denmark, made his way out to train with us. John Alession, Mac Danzig, Tyson Griffin...they all came out to train and it was just a good little spot for all of us to work. At first we were jumping around all over town training wherever we could. The entire group of us trained together and sometimes we used the old Xyience gym or the TUF facility and after about a year and a half, Randy opened Xtreme Couture and we finally had a home."
Mike Pyle: "The hype around fighting and the fact that the UFC and a lot of great fighters were out here is why I came. It was an inspiration to take my career seriously and there was a lot of opportunity out here. I also hate the weather in the Midwest...can't stand it so it all just made more sense to come out west."
Martin Kampmann: "I met Mike Pyle in Denmark and it was a long time goal of mine to train in the U.S. I hooked up with him and stayed at his house. Back then there wasn't a Xtreme Couture but it was the same group of guys who would train with each other. I would train with Randy, Mike, Gray, Tyson, Jay and a few other guys and we would jump around from gym to gym training. Then I got into the UFC and by that time Xtreme Couture had opened up and I've been there ever since."
Jay Hieron: "To make a long story short a bunch of us were all training together. Myself, Randy Couture, Mike Pyle, Gray Maynard we would all call each other to train. We were the guys who were pretty active in Vegas at the time and we would all call one another to meet up and train at different gyms. Xyience was open back then or we would meet at the UFC training center at the time then Randy said he was opening up a new gym and wanted us to come train there so we've been there ever since."
Over the past five months I have made several trips to Las Vegas covering MMA. During those visits I have toured the gyms of "Sin City" in hopes of finding out more about the relationships fighters have not only with each other but the facilities they call home. With that being said, over the course of my time in Vegas I began to hear a stigma being repeated about the fighters at Xtreme Couture. People suggest that the fighters at Randy Couture's gym go all out at all times and the fighters weighed in on this reputation.
Mike Pyle: "I hear that shit all of the time and I have no idea what people are talking about. I mean...are they training to be in f**cking Cirque Du Soleil? Fighting is like football here and inside of that cage is a full contact, f**cking knock down drag out fight. If you don't prepare yourself for a stressful situation like that you are going to fail. We try to make it as realistic as possible. I don't know what people's issues with that are or what their problem is with the way we train but we train hard...we train smart. If someone came here and had a different experience then I don't know what to tell them. There also may have been other things at play and if that person was a smartass they got their ass whooped for a reason you know what I mean? There are two sides to every story I can guarantee you that. But outside of regular training I don't know what people are talking about...maybe they need to change their tampons."
Jay Hieron: "I don't necessarily think that's true. There was a point in time when MMA was new and there was definitely a learning experience on how you train and everything that goes with it. There is always a learning experience to be found in this sport and that is why the sport is so intriguing. There are so many ways to win or lose, there are always new moves popping up and if you aren't staying on top of this and you don't keep an open mind to learn new things you are never going to get better. It's not to say that we always went hard but we were learning as we went along."
Martin Kampmann: "There are so many gyms in Vegas and so many great fighters at those gyms. I think we have a great squad at Xtreme Couture where we are not only training partners but we are all also good friends as well. That creates a great atmosphere at Xtreme Couture. Just like any other gyms we train light sometimes but when we spar we spar hard and I think it gets us great results. The reason I came to the U.S. was to be able to have great sparring partners. I want to be pushed and if you are at a point where you are beating everybody up in the gym then you start to slack and you need to go somewhere else. I definitely have great sparring partners at Xtreme Couture and we are constantly pushed so having tough training partners will definitely help you improve."
Gray Maynard: "I think the reason that gets said is that with our core group of guys there is always at least one or two of us in camp training for a fight. When you are in camp you are not trying to think about if you are going too hard on someone, you are preparing for a fight. I think that is the biggest thing and if you are coming through to workout you can't take as a personal attack because we are just f**king training for a fight. When I came in a long time ago I trained with Couture, Forrest and the rest of the guys. I wasn't good at all. I was new, didn't have any hands and I took a lot of beatings. I never once thought they were picking on me I just knew they were good and that I needed to get up to that caliber."
As the sport of mixed martial arts continues to grow at rates never before seen by mainstream standards, the more gyms and MMA facilities are popping up around the country. Aside from gyms fighters associate themselves with there are a handful of high profile teams who are rising to the top to of the heap.
Jay Hieron: "We have a solid unit. We have been together from the first day the doors opened and we are still there. It's more than just a team it's a family and as they say iron sharpens iron."
Gray Maynard: "There is a willingness to help and teach one another. We are all close friends but we train very hard. We all put a tremendous amount of time into this sport."
With the gym being named after UFC Hall of Famer and multi-time UFC champion Randy Couture, success is one of the primary ingredients that keeps the gym thriving. With a roster full of fighters with championship experience, this doesn't appear to be anything that will slow down anytime soon.
Jay Hieron: "You want to be around people who are doing great things for themselves because that pushes you to go harder. It's just like the laws of attraction and you want to be around success and when you think positively, things start to open up and good things start to happen."
Gray Maynard: "I think Xtreme Couture will always be a part of the sport. It's a great gym and it's our home. It's where we are at most of the time, in fact probably more than we are at our own homes. I think Randy built the gym for us which is unbelievable because he could have gone anywhere. He has a place in L.A. and he could have just paid to use gyms for his camps but I really believe he took that core group of guys, who were jumping around from gym to gym, we were there for him to train. Even if he lost we were there and I truly feel he built the gym for us."
Mike Pyle: "It's the way we handle business. I've said it before...I'm not in this game to be famous, to get a pay date or any of that shit. I like to fight. I think the reason we feed off each other and what makes us such a popular or named gym in this sport is that we are focused. We are 100% focused. The mentality of the core group of guys we have there is solid and we are all very happy in our lives. We have everything we need and we aren't a bunch of partiers that hang out all the time at the clubs. We are totally focused and that is what you have to be in this game. We go full steam ahead and being focused makes us ready for any bumps that pop up in the road. That's what allows us to take care of business."