Blackzillians – The Rise And The Fall

Years Active: 2011-2017
Location: Boca Raton, Florida
Founder(s): Glenn Robinson/Rashad Evans
Coaches: Henri Hooft, Greg Jones, Neil Melanson, Mario Sperry
Notable Fighters: Rashad Evans, Anthony Johnson, Vitor Belfort, Eddie Alvarez, Kamaru Usman, Michael Johnson, Tyrone Spong

The creation of the Blackzillians

The Blackzillians started with 4 fighters from American Top Team looking for a new gym to train in and other opportunities. These original 4 fighters included Yuri Villefort, Gesias Cavalcante, Jorge Santiago, and Danillo Villefort.

They got into contact with Glenn Robinson, who owned the multi-million dollar company Iron Bridge Tools. Robinson, who was an MMA fan, began helping the four fighters with their search.

They first started training at Imperial Athletics and then the team started growing. Former UFC champ, Rashad Evans would find himself in a business relationship with Robinson after his break up with Jackson-Wink MMA.

Then a stray of other top fighters looking for a new gym would make their way to the gym. Including Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Johnson, Muhamad Lawlal, Matt Mitrione, and Ryan Jimmo.

Before Robinson knew it, he had a team full of the best MMA fighters in the world. He began working with JACO Athletics to sponsor the fights and help open a new MMA gym.

Glenn found a large space in Boca Raton, Florida, where he would open JACO Hybrid Training Center in 2011. A new super MMA gym was born.

The Blackzillians continues growing

From when JACO Hybrid Training Center was founded in 2011, the team expanded exponentially in the first year. As top fighters kept joining the team, they would make recommendations for coaches.

Matt Mitrione recommended that Neil Melanson be brought in to teach grappling and Tyrone Spong recommended Henri Hooft for striking.

The team would also add other coaches like Greg Jones, Mario Sperry, Mike Van Arsdale, and Kenny Monday. Not only was the team composed of top fighters, but also top coaches.

Where did the name Blackzillians come from?

The name of the gym was JACO Hybrid Training Center, but the team was known as the Blackzillians. This name was given by former Strikeforce fighter Danillo Villefort, who noticed the team was composed of mostly black/Brazilian fighters.

This name would stick and pretty soon the MMA world would learn who the Blackzillians were.

The Success of the Blackzillians

For a short period, the Blackzillians were one of the top MMA gyms in the world. They brought in a number of talented fighters to train with each other at the gym.

Not just MMA fighters, but also the world’s best boxers, kickboxers, and Jiu Jitsu athletes. The talent in the gym would equal a lot of success for the team from the start.

From 2011-2015, the team had top fighters in nearly every weight class in the top MMA promotions. Many of which were constantly competing for world titles or in the main event of big cards.

Blackzillian coaches

Glenn Robinson with the encouragement of the fighters brought in some of the best coaches in the world. Here is a complete list and short background of each Blackzillian coach.

Henri Hooft

Henri Hooft, a champion Dutch Kickboxer that had retired from fighting to focus on coaching. He was brought in to coach striking at the recommendation of pro kickboxer Tyrone Spong.

Through coaching at the Blackzillians, Hooft proved he was one of the best striking coaches in the world. Hooft now runs Sanford MMA with Greg Jones in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Greg Jones

Greg Jones was a West Virginia alum that won three NCAA wrestling titles. Jones had been coaching at West Virginia for 9 years before receiving an offer to coach at the Blackzillians gym.

He developed a friendship with Henri Hooft, who he would later partner with to open Sanford MMA.


Neil Melanson

Neil Melanson is a catch wrestling specialist that had previously coached at Xtreme Couture and Alliance MMA. Melanson would later become the head coach of the gym after Hooft left to start his own gym.

Mike Van Arsdale

Before moving to the Blackzillians with Rashad Evans, Mike Van Arsdale was the wrestling coach at Jackson-Wink MMA. He worked there for a few years before opening his own gym in Arizona.

Kenny Monday

Former Olympic wrestling champion Kenny Monday also worked at the Blackzillians gym for a short time. He was the most decorated wrestling coach that the Blackzillans had.

Monday was abruptly fired and various other coaches would come and go from the gym.

Blackzillian fighters

JACO Hybrid Training Center was home to some of the best fighters in the world. Here are some of the most notable fighters that trained there.

Rashad Evans

Rashad Evans was one of the biggest fighters that was part of the team. Joining the team after a well documented breakup with Jackson-Wink MMA.

Evans joining the Blackzillians when they were formed brought a lot of attention to the gym. He would be with the team until 2016, when he left to join Henri Hooft’s gym.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony “Rumble” Johnson was considered one of the best young fighters on the team. Once he began working with Henri Hooft his abilities went to another level.

Going 12-2 during his time with the Blackzillians. He would also leave with Henri Hooft to join his new team.

Eddie Alvarez

Eddie Alvarez would join the Blackzillans towards the end of his Bellator run and beginning of his UFC run. He would spend a few years training in Florida before moving back to Philadelphia to train closer to home.

Kamaru Usman

The current UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman got his start in MMA at the Blackzillians. From the beginning of his career, everyone at the Blackzillians said that he would become the best in the world.

After winning the TUF: Blackzillians vs American Top Team series, Usman has proven them right. He is 14-0 in the UFC and considered one of the top pound 4 pound fighters in the world.

TUF: ATT vs Blackzillians

The only gym vs gym season of TUF was between American Top Team and the Blackzillians. Heat between the two teams arose from Blackzillians founder, Glenn Robinson poaching fighters from ATT to train at the Blackzillians.

Robinson would offer a large amount of money for fighters to train at his gym. A few of the fighters Robinson made offers to were fighters from ATT and a few accepted.

This created a lot of tension between him and ATT founder Dan Lambert. They almost came to blows a few times during the series.

Blackzillians fighter and current UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman would win this TUF season and bragging rights for the Blackzillians.

The Blackzillians financial problems

Running a super MMA gym can be quite costly and owner Glenn Robinson found this out. He couldn’t keep up with the cost of running the gym and pay multiple fighters and coaches over 6 figures.

Robinson was in debt for over $10 million dollars, which caused him to file chapter 11 bankruptcy in late 2016. With no money to pay his fighters and coaches many of the fighters began leaving.

Glenn would actually file suit against former striking coach Henri Hooft for breach of contract. This was after Hooft left the gym and most of the team’s fighters to start his own MMA gym.

One of the big reasons for these financial problems was a bad business plan by Robinson. He opened a gym promising to pay numerous high level fighters and coaches without any revenue coming in.

The fighters brought exposure, but not money, which would come from regular students at other gyms. Unfortunately, the Blackzillians gym was just for fighters only and the debt just kept growing.

Glenn Robinson passes away & the end of the Blackzillians

In 2018, after years of struggling to keep his gym open and personal problems, Glenn Robinson passed away. The cause of death was a suspected heart attack. Most likely from the amount of stress he was facing.

His death would mark the end of the Blackzilians after operating for over 6 years.

The legacy of the Blackzillians

Even though the gym was only around for a short time, the Blackzillians made quite an impact in MMA. Glenn Robinson was able to bring together the world’s best fighters and coaches all into one gym.

They were very successful for a short time, but it was nearly impossible to keep this team together. Even though the gym stopped operating in 2017, the Blackzillians were still considered a high-level team.

Today, there are still many ex-members of the gym still competing at the highest level of the sport. Including the current UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman.