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Beyond the Octagon: The People Behind the Champions

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In professional sports, it’s always the athlete that steals the spotlight. Even the most casual fans will likely be able to enumerate the champions and the contenders – in some cases, like that of Conor McGregor, even those who haven’t heard of their sports. But aside from the more seasoned fans, few people spare a thought for the professionals that are not athletes but they are still vital to the success of the person throwing the punches. One of the most important roles played by people behind the scenes is that of a trainer.

Even the most talented fighter needs trainers and coaches to achieve success. After all, mixed martial arts is a very complex sport, requiring the fighter to switch instantly from one to another. These coaches and trainers have already proven their worth, giving us excellent fighters to root for.

Carlos Barreto

As a fighter, Carlos Barreto has quite a few big names on his trophy wall: he defeated fighters like Kevin Randleman and Dan Bobish, he fought in the UFC and the Pride Fighting Championships, and he won the IVC Heavyweight Championship in 1999. He was trained by the legendary Carlson Gracie himself, he was part of the Brazilian Top Team, and holds a 2nd-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

After retiring in 2005, he founded an MMA fighting team and gym in Brazil, called Casa Preta (Black House). Over the years, the Black House has given the sports athletes like former Invicta FC Flyweight Champion Barb Honchak, UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, Interim UFC Heavyweight Champion Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira (Big Nog), Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Ronaldo Souza, and many others.

Randy Couture

Randy Couture made his MMA debut in 1997, after a pretty successful wrestler career. He had experience in more than wrestling – while in the army, he did a “little boxing”, too. He made his debut at UFC 13, winning his first match against Tony Halme, a fighter 100 pounds heavier than him, in under a minute. He won his first UFC Heavyweight Champion title later in the same year. After a successful career, Couture retired from the ring in 2006, becoming a regular commentator for the UFC, then returned a year later, becoming the UFC Heavyweight Champion for the third time. He ultimately resigned from the UFC amid a scandal and turned to coach instead.

He founded Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts in 2006, with a flagship gym in Las Vegas. Among others, the Las Vegas gym features instructors like former New Zealand kickboxer Ray Sefo, professional combat coach Neil Melanson. Among the athletes trained by the gym, we find former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate, M-1 Global light heavyweight champion Vinny Magalhaes, former UFC heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort, and Randy Couture’s son, Ryan Couture, currently competing in the Welterweight division of Bellator MMA.

“Duke” Roufus

Jeffrey Ryan “Duke” Roufus is seasoned in styles like kickboxing, Muay Thai, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Taekwondo. Out of his 45 fights as a kickboxer, he won 36 (26 by KO). Upon retiring, he became one of the best-known striking-oriented coaches in the United States. He is the founder of Roufusport Martial Arts Academy, a competition team and gym based in Milwaukee, coaching the likes of UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis, former U.S. Olympian and former Bellator World Champion Ben Askren, and former UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley

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