MMA Junkie’s 2020 ‘Gym of the Year’: Elevation Fight Team enjoys notable success in COVID-hit year

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Simon Head
·3 min read
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The coronavirus pandemic, and its resulting restrictions, hit gym owners and teams hard in 2020. But, despite the challenges arriving from the onset of COVIF-19, MMA’s elite gyms still managed to help fine-tune their fighters to deliver memorable performances throughout the year.

One gym, in particular, enjoyed an excellent year, with Colorado’s Elevation Fight Team delivering an impressive series of results as the Denver-based gym led its big names to a positive 2020.

The gym added a new championship belt to its honor roll when Justin Gaethje stepped in on short notice and finished Tony Ferguson to capture the interim lightweight title at UFC 249. Unfortunately for Gaethje and his team, “The Highlight” wasn’t able to upgrade to the undisputed title when he lost to Khabib Nurmagmedov later in the year, but following Nurmagomedov’s subsequent retirement, Gaethje looks well placed to challenge for undisputed gold once again in 2021.

Elsewhere, the gym’s two star heavyweights went undefeated, as Alistair Overeem and Curtis Blaydes both were 2-0 for the year, with all four victories coming in UFC main events.

Overeem’s back-to-back TKO finishes of Walt Harris and Augusto Sakai gave him his first unbeaten calendar year since 2015, while Blaydes followed up a 2-0 year in 2019 with another in 2020, with victories over former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos and ex-Bellator champ Alexander Volkov. A four-fight winning streak sends Blaydes into 2021 with real momentum.

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It was also a big year for evergreen welterweight Neil Magny, who returned to his prolific fighting ways in 2020 by fighting, and winning, three times. Magny picked up a trio of unanimous decisions over Li Jingliang, Rocco Martin and former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler to put him in a solid position heading into the new year.

While its established stars cemented its elite credentials, Elevation’s emerging talent also enjoyed successes. Most notably, lightweight Drew Dober continued his impressive rise toward the lightweight elite by adding two significant victories to his record. Dober’s back-to-back finishes of fellow highly rated prospects Nasrat Haqparast and Alexander Hernandez saw him end 2020 with an honorable mention in the MMA Junkie/USA TODAY Sports lightweight rankings.

Elevation’s Shana Dobson produced one of the biggest upsets of the year when she defeated Mariya Agapova at UFC on ESPN 15, while bantamweight contender Cory Sandhagen bounced back from a submission loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 250 with a second-round TKO finish of Marlon Moraes in his first UFC main event at UFC Fight Night 179 in October.

It all added up to a positive year for the Colorado collective, which deservedly earns our accolade as MMA Junkie’s “Gym of the Year” for 2020.

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