Article

Kings MMA fighters bring home gym atmosphere, fellowship, to Fortaleza

(Photo credit: Juan Cardenas)FORTALEZA, Brazil

It is just past midnight when coach Rafael Cordeiro begins the session in the workout room of the Hotel Gran Marquise in Fortaleza.

Several fighters and coaches are gathered to support three names: Kelvin Gastelum, Shogun Rua and Beneil Dariush, all of whom will see action Saturday night at UFC Fight Night Fortaleza.

More than 5,000 miles separate the Kings MMA gym in Huntington Beach, California from the small, hot room in Fortaleza, but the energy is the same tonight as it is on any day.

Professor Cordeiro orders five rounds, mixing shadow boxing and grappling followed by a minute of rest. The idea is to practice techniques, lose weight and set the timing to peak when the fighters enter the Octagon at the Centro de Formacao Olimpico.

Cordeiro, one of the most recognized coaches in MMA, has seen everything in the sport. He is one of the few to have been in the corners of PRIDE, and remains extremely active today, at the highest levels.

His three fighters in Fortaleza represent that experience: Shogun, 35, a legend with 34 fights to his credit; Dariush, 27, with 16 fights is an established Top 10 lightweight.

Gastelum, 25, has 16 fights under his belt and is the youngest winner of The Ultimate Fighter.


In the steamy hotel ballroom that’s doubling as a gym this week in Fortaleza, the three of them sweat heavily, sit during brief periods of rest and breathe deeply in each pause. When they restart, they do not slow down. The Cordeiro fighters move quickly in the small space, sometimes almost colliding with each other, then pause to smile and clash fists.

At times they manage to forget the oppressive humidity, the heat of the room, the weight cut, the closed and suffocating space. They are at home. They are among family.

At the end of the five rounds, Rafael Cordeiro remembers this sense of community. He gathers the fighters and reminds them to thank those who have helped them, and motivates the three fighters with thoughts of the challenges before them. They conclude as they always do back in California, with a prayer for their health of that of their opponents. Even Tim Means and Sergio Moraes join the circle, in which everyone but Cordeiro is silent.

It’s the end of a good night, and a good workout, for the Kings MMA team in Fortaleza.

Juan Cardenas is a multimedia journalist for UFC.com and UFCEspanol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Desautomatas

Media

Recent
Watch Ray Borg defeat Chris Kaledes from their bout in 2015. Borg takes on Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight title at UFC 215.
Aug 18, 2017
Watch Demetrious Johnson defend his belt against Kyoji Horiguchi at UFC 186. Don't miss Johnson take on Ray Borg at UFC 215.
Aug 18, 2017
In advance of the most anticipated event of the summer, Floyd Mayweather hosts an International media conference call on Thursday, August 17 at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET.
Aug 17, 2017
Kevin Lee is set to face Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight title at UFC 216 in Las Vegas on Oct. 7 with the champ Conor McGregor taking care of some business in the boxing ring. Lee spoke to UFC.com about the fight.
Aug 16, 2017