by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
The east coast has become a hotbed for great mixed martial arts over the past few years and more top teams are starting to emerge as some of the best training camps for new and established fighters.
One of those camps, AMA Fight Club, based out of Whippany, N.J., is becoming a top proving ground for many future stars. Just recently three different athletes from the gym have made their way to the Ultimate Fighting Championship including brother tandem, Dan and Jim Miller, and also undefeated lightweight Brian McLaughlin, who was featured on this season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Lead MMA trainer Mike Constantino is proud of the team he’s built. Ever since the team started in 2006, big things have been expected.
Constantino was working on a new training center when he found Jamie Cruz, a celebrated black belt under the legendary Renzo Gracie, through a mutual friend in UFC fighter Dante Rivera.
The team is a Renzo Gracie affiliate program and they have long ties to the legend and his other schools in the area.
“Jamie Cruz is a black belt under Renzo Gracie, he’s been training with him for over ten years, and about a year and a half, two years ago, Renzo needed a replacement for Fabio Leopoldo in the IFL and he asked Danny Miller to do it,” Constantino said about the relationship between AMA and Renzo Gracie. “Danny Miller stepped in and fought a black belt named Dave Phillips and Dan submitted him with a guillotine.”
From there, the team started to form with Constantino handling the MMA training, while also managing the athletes. Cruz worked on the jiu-jitsu program. They have also added Muay Thai coach Tony Valera, and are focused on being the best team on the East Coast.
At any one time the team will also travel to New York City to work at Renzo Gracie’s main academy in Manhattan, while also working with another Gracie black belt in Ricardo Almeida and his team in New Jersey. The team maintains a core group of fighters they, but also adds in others like UFC fighter Frankie Edgar, Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, and Dante Rivera, at different times in training.
AMA Fight Club has also started to produce a number of UFC fighters that fans will get to know over the next few years, including brother tandem, Jim and Dan Miller, who serve as the backbone of the team.
“I call him captain of the fight team,” Constantino said about Dan Miller. “Basically he sets the precedent along with Jim. I mean they’re both everything you could ever ask for as a trainer. If I had a 100 Dan Millers and Jim Millers, I’d be set.”
Brian McLaughlin, who currently sports an undefeated record and won his fight on “The Ultimate Fighter” this season, also calls the AMA Fight Club home.
Many new up and comers can be expected to make a splash in other organizations in the near future, including top featherweight prospect Tim Troxell, who is set to fight for the Ring of Combat featherweight title this November. He may end up with World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) or Strikeforce in the future.
Other notables include heavyweight Glen Sandull; Sean Santella, an amateur ready to debut very soon; and Charlie Brenneman, who was the winner on the first season of the Spike series “Pros vs. Joes” and may take a try at the ninth season of The Ultimate Fighter in the welterweight division.
Constantino believes he has a team to be proud of and he looks to continue the building process with new and young talent ready to train with his squad.
“You’re not going to walk into a room that’s a tougher room than our room,” Constantino said. “If you want to train at the top level and get better, there’s just no where else to be.”