Over the past decade, Arizona has established itself as one of North America’s MMA hotspots.
Between Fight Ready in Scottsdale and the MMA Lab in Glendale, fighters have a wealth of coaches, sparring partners, and gyms to choose from. As a result, fighters like Henry Cejudo, Benson Henderson, and Sean O’Malley spend a significant amount of time training in the Grand Canyon State.
Another fighter who has been the lucky recipient of all that Arizonian MMA has to offer is Casey Kenney. Kenney, who is currently 13-1-1 and 2-0 in the UFC, divides his time between the previously mentioned MMA Lab and Rise Combat Sports. The 28-year-old is coached primarily by BJJ expert John Crouch and UFC veteran Chris Cariaso, as well as strength and conditioning coach Nick Holck, a former USA Weightlifting performance coach.
In a recent interview with John Hyon Ko, Kenney discussed his growth as a fighter and praised his coaches.
“I feel like I’ve got a complete package as a team in the MMA Lab and Rise Combat Sports with John Crouch at the Lab and Chris Cariaso at Rise,” Kenney said.
“I still bounce back and forth there, and I’ve got my strength coach in Tuscon, Nick Holck, as well. I’ve just been getting so much better, you know.”
In particular, Kenney holds his team at the MMA Lab in very high regard. The gym, founded in 2007, has quickly established itself as one of the premier gyms in North America, responsible for the growth of fighters like Jared Cannonier and Bryan Barberena. The MMA Lab fight team also features Kenney’s fellow bantamweight prospects O’Malley and Mario Bautista, and this strength in depth is something Kenney is immensely grateful for.
“There’s not a better MMA gym in the world than the MMA Lab; we run deep in there. You know, seeing so many different looks lets me go back to the drawing board and get so much better.
“I’m always improving; I’ve been professional for five years now and I’ve been grappling a lifetime, but I’ve only been striking for as long as I’ve been doing MMA, so my striking is constantly getting better and we’re always coming up with new things.”
With a head coach pairing of Chris Cariaso and John Crouch, Kenney has formed perhaps one of the most experienced coaching pairings in the UFC, with Crouch boasting over 170 cornered fights and Cariaso 13 UFC/WEC fights including a title fight at flyweight. This combination of coaching wisdom and hardened experience not only means training camps are exceptionally planned and focused, but the advice in between rounds is outstanding as well, leading Kenney to make a rather interesting comparison with another sporting duo.
“It’s like having Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the corner at the same time. Chris is the hands on OG that’s done it all, and Crouch is the general that’s been leading guys into battle for a long time. You cross the best of both worlds, and that’s a dangerous combination.”
Casey Kenney will face Merab Dvalishvili at UFC Rio Rancho on Feb. 15. The card is headlined by a light heavyweight rematch, and likely #1 contender bout, between Corey Anderson and Jan Blachowicz, both fresh off of victories against Johnny Walker and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza respectively. In the co-main event, Diego Sanchez will face backflipping sensation Michel Pereira in a must-watch welterweight bout.
Also on the card, Nathaniel Wood will look to remain undefeated in the UFC against John Dodson, and Yancy Medeiros and Lando Vanatta will meet at lightweight.