Kings MMA is the famed gym of Master Rafael Cordeiro in Huntington Beach that is home to current UFC champions Fabricio Werdum and Rafael Dos Anjos as well as many well known former and future champions. Its first affiliate just opened in Anaheim and is headed by BJJ World Champion and UFC fighter Beneil Dariush. I met Benny in 2009 at a local SoCal tournament called Battle at the Armory. Despite being a blue belt at the time, he ran through the nogi division defeating several black belts. In addition to being amazing on the mats, he was extremely friendly. We kept in touch and supported each other at tournaments and later as brown belts trained together on a weekly basis. I owe a lot to Benny. Not only did he beat me up regularly and help my BJJ tremendously, he introduced me to Romulo Barral which was a total game changer for my BJJ life. It’s really nice to see good things happen to good people and I was excited to attend the opening day of his new school and have already been back a few times!
The gym is beautiful. It offers Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Nogi training. The Tae Kwon Do is specifically for kids and there are kids classes for Muay Thai and BJJ as well. There are 2 mat spaces which allow classes to run simultaneously. There is an area with benches for parents to watch their kids train and several heavy bags on the larger mat as well as all the pads and equipment you would expect in a stand up gym. It also has 2 bathrooms and 2 changing rooms along with space for bags and belongings.
Walking into the gym felt like attending a black Friday event. The soft opening was busier than most grand openings I’ve seen! Benny’s family was out in full support and there were beautiful balloons, a bouquet, a photographer, and some awesome homemade cake that his mother made me promise to try after training.(It was worth every calorie!) Everyone was extremely friendly and caring and you will feel appreciated the second you walk in the door. The culture is off to a great start!
Benny intends to create an intimate environment with individual attention. While the first day was packed due to the excitement of opening, subsequent days had more manageable class sizes. He has several strategies as the gym grows to keep that same family feel and I admire his focus on culture over packing the mats and money grabbing. As an instructor, he doesn’t over complicate and provides options for both gi and nogi, which is nice. He focuses on just 2 to 3 moves and is very encouraging of all the students. You could see some people light up as he made simple comments about how they’re progressing or how well they did after class. Benny is a naturally positive influence.
What to Expect
With classes being only 1 hour long efficiency is the name of the game. This is an MMA gym so it’s designed to allow you to practice several disciplines back to back without excessively wearing out your body. Warm ups were focused on some quick mobilization and dynamic stretching. For the first class Benny showed his signature Dariush collar and sleeve guard and how to get the triangle and omoplata from there. As class size and attendance normalize he is planning on building his curriculum with themes based on the skill level of the classes. After each move, he sets the clock and allows for drilling. There is time for 3-4 rounds of sparring at the end of the class. Depending on which class you attend, there is often time for additional drilling or sparring afterwards.
For some background, Benny and I are very competitive and unless one of us is injured we don’t hold back. In all the times we’ve sparred I tapped him once by a surprise flying armbar and for the next week I got a daily message from him asking when we could train again because he had to avenge his loss. He has the mentality that the last roll is the only one that matters and he is always pursuing improvement.(He avenged that armbar in spades and has tapped me more times than I can count) Opening night we went for five minutes and I put the pressure on right away with a single leg take down. Knowing his game, I tried desperately to avoid falling into his Dariush and lasso guards so I kept the passing pressure going trying not to let him control my sleeve. About 2 minutes in, he threw me off balance forcing me to base and got the grip he was looking for. I kept pushing the pace and fell into his omoplata. I took full advantage of my size and stood up in a moment that made him look like Clark Gracie hanging calmly in mid air while I looked like a bully. He transitioned into sitting guard and got a single leg of his own. For his size, Benny’s passing pressure is insane. He crushed my legs to the side and mounted his offense. I switched to one legged X then X guard and swept him back. We continued fighting and he caught one last sweep before time ran out leaving us even and out of breath. I know he’s been training a lot more Nogi so I’m excited to go back and train without the gi just to be reminded of the old days when I couldn’t even hold the match at an even score.
The school is growing and evolving which makes it a wonderful and exciting time to be a part of the family. It has the full gambit of mixed martial arts classes with great instructors that all share Benny’s positive values and attitude. Regardless of the class you’ll get great instruction and have plenty of tough sparring to get you ready for whatever goal you’ve set for yourself. This has the potential to be a truly great gym. It’s rare to find someone who has a big name be so interested in everyone else’s success and I think that’s the appeal of Kings Anaheim even more so than the awesome training.
Sometimes in your martial arts journey you run across people that are truly special. Benny is one of those people. I said it back when he first said he was interested in the UFC and I’ll say it again, he will be a UFC champion. His success continues to grow and it’s because of how hard he works and how good of a person he is. He can teach you to be a champion on and off the mat which is a skill set not many have. If you’re in the Anaheim area this gym is in a wonderful location and should be your destination of choice.
Please like and comment if you enjoyed this article. Don’t forget to check out Kings Anaheim FB page for more news on this awesome gym!
Bonus Technique: To see a throwback video of Benny as a purple belt explaining his Dariush guard as a guest on Dan Lukehart’s awesome youtube channel CLICK HERE.(There’s some cool competition footage as well) Credit to “Trumpet” Dan Lukehart who has gone on to open Brea Jiu Jitsu and recently create a unique online BJJ learning environment that you can called JiuJitsu.Net that you can check out as well.