Are you wondering who the best MMA coaches of all time are?
In this article, we’ll look at the 15 best MMA coaches of all time, what makes them such good coaches, and what they’ve achieved during their careers.
Best MMA Coaches Of All Time
The best MMA coaches of all time is a highly debatable topic. One fighter’s favorite coach may be another’s worst. The coach-student relationship in MMA is unique as it’s not always the best technique, strategy, or guidance that makes a partnership successful, but more so trust and chemistry.
For these reasons, it’s hard to rank the best MMA coaches of all time, but they can be ranked by:
- Years of experience as a coach
- UFC, Bellator, and One FC Champions (Major MMA promotions)
- Having a large amount of elite-level fighters under them
- Coach of the Year awards
- Anything a coach does that separates them from the rest (strategy, cornering, motivating, technique, principles, teaching)
So, while subjective, here are the 15 best MMA coaches of all time, ranked starting with the best.
1. Javier Mendez
Javier Mendez is one of the most decorated former fighters to become an MMA coach. He’s the former ISKA light cruiserweight (1992) and light heavyweight (1995) world kickboxing champion and has been coaching kickboxing since founding the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in 1985.
Javier started coaching various kickboxing champions and it wasn’t until 1996 that Mendez started working with MMA fighters after they sought out his kickboxing coaching.
Javier Mendez has coached various UFC champions such as Frank Shamrock, BJ Penn, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Maurice Smith, and Islam Makhachev – and in 2015 he became the first coach to have 3 fighters holding UFC belts: Cain Valesquez, Daniel Cormier, and Luke Rockhold. He’s also coached Bellator champions, his most recent student being Usman Nurmagomedov.
As can be seen from this list, many of these fighters were great wrestlers and after joining AKA, Mendez massively developed their striking skills so that they were very well-rounded. This was most recently seen in Makhachev’s victory over Charles Oliveira, where he even looked superior in the striking department.
Javier Mendez also helps all fighters with promotional media training and helps teach English to his fighters that need it.
2. Greg Jackson
Greg Jackson is one of the most famous and best MMA coaches because he’s been in the game since 1992 when he opened his own Gaidojutsu gym at the age of 18.
With the growing success of MMA, in 2000 Greg changed his gym to MMA, and in 2007 Greg partnered with Mike Winkeljohn (striking coach) to create Jackson-Wink MMA.
This partnership has been one of the most successful in MMA, nurturing and creating multiple UFC champions such as Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre, Holly Holm, and Rashad Evans. Greg Jackson has also coached interim champion Carlos Condit and legends like Diego Sanchez.
Greg Jackson famously puts his fighters through a lot of mental toughness and endurance training, as he believes these to be the key to creating champions.
Rashad Evans has spoken of how Greg Jackson had him and other fighters perform buddy carries over the Sandia Mountains, where if they fell they’d fall to their death – talk about pressure testing.
Greg Jackson sees fighters as his friends and family rather than a working relationship. He believes the coach-fighter relationship requires trust and respect and that without these the partnership will fail.
Greg is also meticulous with his fight preparation, planning, making adjustments, and helping his fighters execute. His attention to detail is second to none and he’s known for keeping his fighters incredibly grounded and able to block out hype so they can focus on the fight.
He’s also known to study his fighter’s opponents to understand their weaknesses and prepare a game plan to exploit them.
Greg Jackson has been criticized for coaching his fighters to win by point-fighting. For this reason, and for advising Jon Jones to turn down a short-notice title fight against Chael Sonnen, Dana White described him as a sport killer.
However, it’s hard to argue with his results, and Greg Jackson is undoubtedly one of the best MMA coaches of all time, with over 2 decades of MMA coaching experience and having won the MMA Coach of the Year award 3 times in a row: in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
3. Trevor Wittman
Seen as a top 3 MMA coach by anyone you ask, Trevor Wittman has one of the most extensive lists of elite-level fighters under his wing compared to any coach.
He’s coached Kamaru Usman and Rose Namajunas to become UFC champions and Justin Geathje to challenge for the lightweight title. Trevor Wittman has also had Georges St-Pierre, T.J. Dillashaw, Donald Cerrone, and many other UFC fighters under his wing.
Trevor Wittman is a coach who develops fighters’ striking technique and has done so for 25 years. Trevor Wittman started as a boxing coach and established T’s KO Fight Club in 1998. This experience as a boxing coach made the transition to MMA smooth, and in 2009 Trevor opened Grudge Training Facility (GTF).
In 2016, Trevor closed GTF, but he continued coaching a select few MMA fighters. This allows him to dedicate more time to his fighters, and this increased focus is one of the keys to Wittman’s success.
He’s very detail-orientated and one of the best at giving his fighters direction during a fight. Wittman also coaches the importance of footwork and movement to develop elite striking.
Before partnering with Wittman in 2020, Kamaru Usman was mostly a one-dimensional wrestler who too often won by decision – but has developed great striking (especially the jab) and the ability to knock out opponents.
Cementing Trevor Wittman’s status as one of the best MMA coaches of all time, he won Coach of the Year at the World MMA Awards 3 times: in 2017, 2019, and 2021.
4. Eugene Bareman
From New Zealand, Eugene Bareman is the head coach and founder of City Kickboxing in Auckland. Eugene has coached and produced some of the best MMA fighters such as undisputed champions Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski, as well as Dan Hooker, Brad Riddell, Carlos Ulberg, and Kai Kara-France.
Keys to his success as an MMA coach is his experience as a former fighter, although he only secured a 4-3 record. Despite being short-lived, this experience allows him to understand what fighters are going through and what they need, such as various techniques and mental training.
Eugene is also extremely passionate about the sport. He was formerly studying law but dropped out to pursue a career as a fighter after he’d been learning kickboxing and MMA. This passion for MMA and kickboxing is what drives him to help his fighters succeed.
On top of his experience as a fighter, Eugene Bareman has been an MMA coach for 15 years (2007-2022). Eugene tailors his coaching to each fighter, as he understands how each fighter is individual and requires something different.
To help in this tailoring process, Eugene builds strong bonds that go beyond the normal coach and-student relationship with each of his fighters. He finds out what drives them, why they’re fighting, and what they’re going through in life both mentally and physically – tailoring his coaching to their answers.
Another part of his coaching style is to create unity and togetherness between all the fighters at City Kickboxing. Even the stars like Adesanya and Volkanovski support the fighters who are early in their career.
Lastly, Eugene has great leadership qualities and understands the value of creating a true team in an individualized sport – which is why he’s one of the best MMA coaches today.
5. Firas Zahabi
Firas Zahabi has been labeled as a genius by Joe Rogan, a coach who leaves no stone unturned and knows everything about MMA.
In 2008, Firas bought the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Canada, which is where he’d been a part-time coach since 2007. Firas has developed Tristar into the number 1 MMA gym in Canada, where many international fighters also train.
Firas Zahabi differs from other MMA coaches in that he focuses on technique and avoids overtraining his fighters as he believes recovery and avoiding injury are most important in MMA.
Zahabi’s known for pinpointing the exact intensity required for his fighters in each session and over a whole training camp; which he can increase or decrease as required. He also approaches coaching analytically, which comes from his bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Firas Zahabi’s most notable fighter is Georges St-Pierre, whom he started coaching after his loss to Matt Serra. GSP went undefeated during their partnership and also claimed the middleweight UFC title.
He’s also coached an extensive list of UFC, Bellator, and One Championship fighters, such as Robert Whittaker, Arnold Allen, Vitor Belfort, Anthony Smith, Kenny Florian, Rory MacDonald, Miguel Torres, and Kevin Lee.
Zahabi was also an MMA coach on The Ultimate Fighter: Season 12 for GSP’s team, which easily dominated the opposition. Zahabi also has extensive martial arts training, where he acquired a black belt under Bjj legend, John Danaher.
6. Pat Miletich
Pat Miletich was the first UFC welterweight champion and went on to secure 4 title defenses during an MMA career spanning 13 years between 1995 and 2008.
Pat Miletich was one of the first truly well-rounded MMA fighters, and his fighting experience helped him become one of the best MMA coaches of all time.
Pat’s coaching started in 1997 with the birth of Miletich Fighting Systems (MFS) in Bettendorf, Iowa. MFS was the first of its kind to bring many great fighters together under the same roof to be so successful. Before MFS, MMA coaching and training were very individualized.
Miletich’s coaching focused on cardio and strength and conditioning so that his fighters never got tired during a fight; because he remembered the pain of losing due to exhaustion and knew the importance of cardio in MMA.
A big part of Miletich’s training relied on hard sparring, and MFS was infamous for gym wars where fighters would go as hard as they could in sparring to bring the best out of each other and mimic real fights.
Until MFS became defunct in 2008, under Pat’s coaching, MFS nurtured 5 UFC champions, Robbie Lawler, Jens Pulver, Dave Menne, Tim Sylvia, and Matt Hughes; as well as another 10 world champions in various MMA promotions.
His leadership and coaching qualities didn’t end with the sport of MMA, as he’s been involved in law enforcement training for over 15 years.
Now a UFC Hall of Famer, Pat Miletich will long be remembered as one of the pioneers of early MMA coaching.
7. Rafael Cordeiro
A lot of the qualities Rafael Cordeiro has as a coach he picked up from developing as a fighter through the renowned Chute Boxe Academy (CBA) in Brazil.
Cordeiro went on to become a 3-time muay Thai champion and IVTC lightweight champion (Vale Tudo). This experience helped him become one of the best MMA striking coaches of all time. He’s also a black belt in Bjj, so his students become lethal in finishing capabilities.
He went back to CBA in 1999 as a full-time coach and helped develop some of the best Brazilian MMA fighters in the world, such as Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva, and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. He gained a lot of experience as a coach there before founding Kings MMA in 2010, in California.
At Kings MMA, Cordeiro coached Fabricio Werdum to a UFC heavyweight title as well as Rafael Dos Anjos to the UFC lightweight title. Many attribute Cordeiro’s coaching of Werdum as turning him from a pure submission specialist to a great muay Thai striker and well-rounded MMA fighter.
He’s also coached Cris Cyborg, Lyoto Machida, Beneil Dariush, Raphael Assuncao, Marvin Vettori, Kelvin Gastelum, and Giga Chikadze – former UFC champions and great fighters.
Rafael Cordeiro won MMA Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2015 and put himself in the conversation as one of the best MMA coaches of all time.
8. Mike Brown
Mike Brown is an MMA coach who offers his students the experience of a former WEC featherweight champion and UFC competitor with a record of 26-9 over a 12-year period.
In 2014, Mike Brown turned his attention to coaching and is currently the head coach of the American Top Team (ATT).
Mike has coached fighters such as Dustin Poirier, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Amanda Nunes, Jorge Masvidal (BMF belt winner), Kayla Harrison (PFL), Bo Nickel (huge prospect), and many others who’ve trained at ATT.
In 2018, just 4 years after becoming a coach, Mike Brown won MMA Coach of the Year to become the only MMA coach to have won major honors as a fighter and a coach.
Mike Brown believes the best training and conditioning for his fighters is live sparring in a controlled manner to avoid injury.
9. Matt Hume
Matt Hume is a former kickboxer who won the WKA Kickboxing North American Super Welterweight Title. He was also a less successful MMA fighter with a 5-5 record, before retiring and becoming an MMA coach.
Matt Hume founded AMC Pankration in 1991, which is now one of the longest-running MMA gyms in the world due to Matt Hume’s love and dedication to the sport of MMA.
Here, he trained Demetrious Johnson to become one of the best MMA fighters of all time, Bibiano Fernandes to become the One bantamweight champion, Josh Barnett to become the youngest-ever UFC heavyweight champion, and Rich Franklin the former UFC middleweight champion.
Part of the success of Matt Hume and AMC is that it’s a smaller gym, which allows Matt to give more focus and attention to the fighters he coaches. Matt Hume is very selective about who he coaches because he believes the coach-student relationship needs to be long-term for effective results.
He also works with fewer fighters as he’s busy as the vice president of One Championship. Matt Hume is a complete MMA coach who not only has expertise in kickboxing but he’s known as the wizard for having excellent submission grappling skills and being a Bjj blackbelt. He’s also competed in wrestling, boxing, and karate, so he can teach his students anything they need.
He’s known to give much of his time to his fighters’ cause and puts many hours into watching their opponents and devising great strategies to win.
Overall, Matt Hume has spent his life involved with martial arts, and for this, he’s one of the most experienced, passionate, and intelligent MMA coaches around.
10. Eric Albarracin
Eric Albarracin is a former Pan American and Military World Wrestling silver medalist, and a former US army officer responsible for hand-to-hand fighting systems and coaching. With this former experience, he became the go-to wrestling coach for many MMA fighters.
Eric Albarracin has coached the Korean Zombie, Zhang Weili, Paulo Costa, Patricio Pitbull (Bellator 4-time champion), Deiveson Figueiredo, Henry Cejudo (UFC double-champ), and many other top-level fighters. Eric Albarracin has coached fighters to a total of 14+ world MMA titles in the biggest promotions as of 2022.
Working with many Brazilian fighters, Eric took the time to learn Portuguese to improve his communication and coaching. Because of this, he became a wrestling coach on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil, seasons 2 and 3.
11. Ray Longo
Ray Longo is one of the most experienced MMA coaches, having trained in martial arts since the early 70s and still being hugely involved half a century later. He’s a certified coach of Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee’s fighting style) and is deemed one of the best striking coaches.
In 1990, Ray founded Ray Longo’s International Martial Arts Academy in New York, which has since become Longo-Weidman MMA (LAW). LAW then partnered with Matt Serra’s gym to create the Serra-Longo Fight Team – the most reputable MMA team in New York.
Ray has coached 3 fighters to UFC gold. Matt Serra, who managed a major upset when he beat Georges St-Pierre to become the UFC welterweight champion, Chris Weidman, who became the UFC middleweight champion after dethroning Anderson Silva, and Aljamain Sterling, the current UFC bantamweight champion.
Ray Longo is known for being very vocal when his students are fighting, and also for allowing his students to fight to their strengths, rather than adding too much and trying to change their style.
Overall, Ray Longo’s friendly personality, years of experience in the game, and coaching 3 underdog fighters to become UFC champions, makes him one of the best MMA coaches of all time.
12. Duane Ludwig
Duane Ludwig is a former UFC fighter whose MMA career spanned 12 years and ended with a record of 21-14. Duane was more successful as a kickboxer and muay Thai fighter, where he was a champion in K1, ISKA, WKA, and IKF, before transitioning to MMA in 2000.
Ludwig is credited with the success of Team Alpha Male (TAM) after becoming the gym’s head coach in 2013. While there, Urijah Faber put together a 4-fight win streak, Chad Mendes and Joseph Benavidez were winning consistently, and T.J. Dillashaw became the UFC bantamweight champion.
For his role at TAM, Duane won MMA Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2014 and is now remembered as one of the best MMA coaches of all time – it’s no easy feat to win the award in successive years.
In 2010, Duane opened his academy, Ludwig Martial Arts, where he developed a reputation as one of the best striking coaches in MMA, which is the reason TAM recruited him in 2013.
Duane is known for rounding out a fighter’s overall skillset by adding what they’re missing and working with their key strengths, rather than changing their style too much. He has effective communication when cornering fighters and builds a strong bond with them.
He’s also attributed with helping the fighters at TAM generate extreme power in the lower weight classes through improving and correcting body positioning and balance, as well as meticulously training striking much like how wrestlers tirelessly train over and over.
13. Fernand Lopez
Fernand Lopez started his coaching career in 2010, before founding MMA Factory in 2012 – 7 years before the sport was even legalized in France (for which he campaigned) – and it quickly became the biggest MMA gym in France.
Lopez has coached UFC champion Francis Ngannou (before he became champion), UFC interim champion Cyril Gane, Ion Cutelaba, Nassourdine Imavov, and Christian M’Pumbu, the inaugural Bellator light heavyweight champion.
Fernand Lopez’s success comes from his ability to spot talent, how he cares for his students, his passion for the sport, and his experience as an MMA fighter with a record of 10 wins and 7 losses.
Most notably, he allowed Francis Ngannou to train and sleep at his gym for free as he could see his potential, and he continues doing this with fighters who have natural talent and need his help.
Many of the best and upcoming French MMA talent are choosing MMA Factory and Fernand Lopez to help them succeed, given the success others have had in such a short time. This progression was also noticed by Reebok, who decided to make MMA Factory only their third sponsored gym.
When founding MMA Factory, Fernand Lopez wanted to model the UFC Performance Institute and give fighters in Europe a place that offers everything. Training, learning languages, massages, chiropractic, and media training are all included when being coached by Fernand Lopez.
14. James Krause
James Krause is one of the fastest-rising MMA coaches in the world today. He started part-time coaching in 2015 while still an active UFC fighter, and after retiring in 2020 with a 28-8 record, he became a full-time coach and has gone from strength to strength.
While Krause loved fighting and was in a position as a welterweight contender after winning 7 out of his last 8 UFC fights, he found that coaching was his main passion as he was much happier when helping others achieve success in MMA – which is the key to his fast lane success.
James Krause is the founder and head coach at Glory MMA & Fitness, and he’s also a part-owner of the Kansas City Fighting Alliance (KCFA) – showing just how involved in MMA Krause is.
Despite only full-time coaching in the last 2 years, James Krause has had 15 UFC fighters fighting under him at one time, making him easily the busiest UFC coach and currently one of the go-to best MMA coaches.
The biggest names he’s coached are Julian Marquez, Megan Anderson, Grant Dawson, Jeff Molina, Karl Roberson, and David Onama.
With huge relevant experience as a UFC fighter, James is mainly known for his excellent cornering advice and ability to motivate and hype his fighters between rounds. Some have criticized Krause’s tone and how he swears at some of his fighters, but Krause says he knows his fighters and how to get them to win.
MMA has been Krause’s life for as long as he can remember, and another key to his success is his workhorse mentality and work ethic that he instills in his fighters. He also believes coach-fighter relationships are built on trust and that there can’t be success without it.
15. Khabib Nurmagomedov
One of the greatest UFC fighters of all time, Khabib hasn’t yet transitioned into a full-time MMA coach but everyone he’s coached is having a lot of success.
Khabib’s coaching started at the American Kickboxing Academy in 2014 during his fighting days, and he’s so far coached fighters from the UFC, Bellator, and One.
Some of those fighters are Islam Makhachev, Zubaira Tukhugov, Belal Muhammed, and many of his family members: Abubakar Nurmagomedov, Umar Nurmagomedov, and Usman Nurmagomedov.
After Khabib finished his own training, he would coach his students alongside his former coach, Javier Mendez. Now Khabib has retired, he has more time for his students; with Belal Muhammed describing Khabib’s coaching style as demanding greatness.
Former fighters have spoken of how Khabib pushes them so hard that they have to sleep after the morning workout to recover for the afternoon or evening session.
Khabib’s very vocal when cornering his students and always offers intelligent and useful advice during and in between rounds – which is unsurprising given his experience and dominance at the highest level.
Still early, it’s clear for all to see that Khabib’s already a top MMA coach with almost a decade of experience working alongside his late father and one of the greats, Javier Mendez.