Every gym in the world of MMA has that one fighter who is associated with, when you think of that gym, you think of that fighter, like 2 weight champ Conor McGregor and SBG Ireland, Georges Saint Pierre and Tristar Gym, Luke Rockhold and AKA, but none is more synonymous a partnership than Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male.
But the headline act for this California gym is about to step into the octagon for one final time, when he steps in to face Brad Pickett in his home town of Sacramento, California.
But with the loss of the former KOTC and WEC champion as an active fighter, the fans will no doubt pick a new favourite, and could that person be a TAM member with Faber, and someone who could step up to be the ‘face’ of the Sacramento gym?
With an unbelievable talent pool at their disposal, who will could be the next fighter to take Team Alpha Male forward, well in my eyes there are three possibilities:
Cody ‘No love’ Garbrandt
2016 has been the year of No Love. Cody has quickly risen up the ranks in the UFC over the past year, and along with Stephen Thompson, could be in with a shout of Fighter of the Year.
Garbrandt is the only fighter in the Bantamweight division that still has a perfect professional record, finishing 9 of his 10 professional wins, with the last being a 48 second TKO win over current #14 ranked fighter Takeya Mizugaki. A win that not only raised Cody up to #7 in the world and above fellow TAM member Urijah Faber, it also led to him being a shot at champion Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 at the end of the year.
A win over Cruz will see Cody be the first person to bring a UFC title to TAM, with Faber beating Cruz for the WEC title, but has failed to bring a coveted UFC to Sacramento. And the fact Faber has faced Cruz 3 times over the years, Garbrandt is in the ideal position to work on how to bring the bantamweight title back to Team Alpha Male, and end the year on a high.
When you think of flyweight fighters in the UFC, there will be always one name that comes to mind, and that is current champion and #1 pound for pound best fighter in the world Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson. But there is also one name that should go along with Mighty Mouse and that is New Mexico native, Joseph Benavidez.
When WEC was purchased by the UFC, and all the fighters contracts were carried over, it was Benavidez, who would drop a weight class, who would go up against Johnson for the UFC Flyweight championship. And the current #1 ranked fighter has continued to be an integral member of the division.
Currently a coach on the current season of the Ultimate Fighter with #2 ranked and former Olympian Henry Cejudo, where the best 125lb fighters from around the world, who all happen to be champions in their respective promotions, will fight for a chance to face Mighty Mouse. Essentially see’s Benavidez training someone to possibly do something he and fellow coach Cejudo have failed to do, and that is to beat Mighty Mouse. But if the winner was to beat Johnson, could it see Benavidez get the next shot if he were to beat Cejudo at the TUF finals in December, and like No Love bring a UFC title to Team Alpha Male.
The only problem is the fact that at the minute Johnson looks unbeatable, and could that leave Benavidez, like Faber, to always be there or there about as far as rankings are concerned. Which wouldn’t stoop him being the known fighter for TAM, but could see him also being seen as an also ran where the championship is concerned.
Paige Van Zant
What can you say about 12 Gauge? The UFC Strawweight fighter made her comeback to the Octagon in impressive fashion, with a stunning KO of Bec Rawlings, a finish that also saw her pick up performance of the night, at Fight Night Maia vs Condit back in August.
December 17th sees Van Zant step into the Octagon for the second time since she came second on Dancing with the stars, as she goes up against the Karate Hottie Michelle Waterson, a card that will also see fellow TAM member and UFC newcomer Josh Emmett step into the cage, alongside the final fight of TAM founder Urijah Faber.
There is no doubt that 12 Gauge is already the poster girl for TAM, but can she be the figure head for her beloved gym? Possibly, and with womens MMA on the rise there is no reason why not, and could possibly be like Garbrandt and Benavidez and bring a UFC title to Sacramento. But where Garbrandt can beat Cruz, Benavidez could possibly beat Mighty Mouse, the only problem with the womens Strawweight division, comes in the shape of Joanna Jedrzejczyk!! The current champ just seems unstoppable, and after beating Claudia Gadelha and fellow Polish fighter Karolina Kowalkiewicz, can anyone stop the champ?
With the Womens division being stacked, and as talented as everyone in the top 15, never mind the top 10 in that division, Paige for me is the only one on this list where it would take a miracle to take a title back to Cali. That is no disrespect to Van Zant, she is undoubtedly a talented fighter, and the time on DWTS has added a new dimension to her offence, its just Joanna is that damn good.
Any one of these three fighters could lead Team Alpha Male in the Post Faber era, personally I feel it will be Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt, but what the gym has in its favour is an undoubtedly deep talent pool, and with the likes of Josh Emmett coming up through the ranks, and looking impressive in his UFC debut, and also you will have the returning Chad Mendes who is currently serving a ban for failing a USADA test. The future is bright for the Sacramento Gym.