Xtreme Couture, Eric Nicksick are best gym & coach of 2023 and it isn't even close

Eric Nicksick is the unsung hero behind Sean Strickland and Francis Ngannou's success.

Eric Nicksick
Eric Nicksick / Gabe Ginsberg/GettyImages

Eric Nicksick and Xtreme Couture deserve a lot of credit in 2023. As a whole, MMA made huge strides this year and the global reach through fighters and promotion is at an all-time high. Maybe that's part of the reason why Nicksick and Xtreme Couture were overlooked at the Fighter's Only MMA Awards, but Fansided MMA will right the ship.

While Mike Brown and American Top Team had immense success this year, including championship runs from Alexandre Pantoja and Johnny Eblen in the UFC and Bellator, respectively, the comparative list of accomplishments resoundingly sides with Nicksick and XCMMA this year.

Sean Strickland and Francis Ngannou are just two of the names associated with Nicksick and Xtreme Couture. But there are others too.

Patchy Mix is a great start. After spending time with Jackson Wink, Mix transitioned to Xtreme Couture for a change. Not only has he stayed put, but his success speaks for itself. Mix is 6-0 since 2021 and 2-0 in 2023 after defeating Raufeon Stots and Sergio Pettis en route to the undisputed Bellator bantamweight title. In many people's opinion, Mix would be a top 10 bantamweight in the UFC.

Sadibou Sy is another example. Sy made his way to Xtreme Couture from Sweden amidst the pandemic as a PFL fighter. Fast forward to 2022, Sy won the tournament and $1 million grand prize but lost in the finals this year against Magomed Magomedkerimov. Sy not only credits Nicksick for his success, but Eddie Barraco, Dennis Davis, and Jake Shields as well. Xtreme Couture winning the best gym in 2023 recognizes the efforts of all their coaches this year.

Francis Ngannou and Sean Strickland 2023 performances put Xtreme Couture and head coach Eric Nicksick back on the map

Ngannou and Strickland lead the way for Xtreme Couture in 2023. Both fighters have such incredible stories this year and their accomplishments have allowed them to reach global popularity.

For both Ngannou and Strickland, it's important to recognize the type of coaching Nicksick and the Xtreme Couture team have provided for them over the year. In Ngannou's case, you have someone who has to be sure of himself as he navigates the combat sports scene in a pioneering way. His team, as a whole, played a major part in making the Tyson Fury fight happen. From going to battle with the UFC, to his whole career in limbo, Ngannou was criticized for every decision, including leaving the UFC in fear of Jon Jones. The fact is, Ngannou realized his worth quickly and fought for every penny that he deserved. He is now considered a boxing icon after his performance against Fury and is the face of the PFL.

On top of everything, by honoring Nicksick and Xtreme Couture, Dewey Cooper gets some recognition as well. Mike Tyson was getting a lot of notoriety for his work with Ngannou, but Cooper played a major role in Ngannou's boxing and continues to do the same for other Xtreme Couture fighters.

For Strickland, keeping him focused and out of trouble seems like a tough gig, but somebody had to do it. On multiple occasions, Nicksick has emphasized his focus on dealing with the person and treating every athlete differently. His coaching philosophy allows him to build personal relationships while developing professional game plans with his fighters and it shows in their friendship. It's truly remarkable and probably one of the best blueprints in MMA coaching today. His work with Strickland in and out of the cage is surely what has helped propel the now UFC middleweight champion into superstardom.

2023 was an incredible year for MMA. There were plenty of finishes and fights to remember, but more importantly, incredible shifts in current UFC champions and the combat sports landscape as a whole. For Nicksick and Xtreme Couture, 2023 was all about having their hands full in different aspects of combat sports. Not only were they able to put a stamp on the boxing scene, but they made huge strides with their fighters in all major MMA promotions. It's safe to say that Nicksick and Xtreme Couture are very deserving of the coach and gym of the year.

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