'More financial power': Top gym Sanford MMA, rebranded to Kill Cliff FC

UFC star Michael Chandler will now be affiliated with the gym, Kill Cliff FC. Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

LAS VEGAS - One of the best gyms in mixed martial arts is getting a rebrand.

Sanford MMA, the home of UFC stars like Michael Chandler, Gilbert Burns and Robbie Lawler, will now be called Kill Cliff FC, sources told ESPN on Thursday. Kill Cliff, an energy drink and CBD company that also sponsors the Atlanta Braves, has taken over the naming rights of the South Florida team. An official announcement is expected Friday.

The new Kill Cliff FC has more than 80 professional fighters, including Lawler, a former UFC champion; former UFC title challengers in Chandler and Burns; current Bellator interim welterweight champion Logan Storley; former ONE Championship champion Aung La Nsang; UFC contenders like Vicente Luque; and blue-chip UFC prospect Shavkat Rakhmonov.

Longtime MMA and kickboxing mentor Henri Hooft is the head coach and Greg Jones leads the wrestling program. Kamaru Usman, ESPN's pound-for-pound top MMA fighter in the world, is an alum of the team and still trains with the squad on occasion.

Per Hooft, Sanford Health will still be part of the team as a co-sponsor. There is a Sanford clinic adjacent to the Deerfield Beach gym and Hooft said the team would open up a small gym at Sanford's compound in South Dakota. Kill Cliff's naming rights deal will allow for renovations to the Florida gym beginning in August, including adding more amenities and technology for fighters.

"The fighters, they'll really benefit from this," Hooft said. "More financial power. More stuff you can build."

The now former Sanford MMA originated as the Blackzilians in 2011 under Hooft and late MMA manager Glenn Robinson. Hooft and many of the Blackzilians fighters branched off to form Combat Club in 2017, a team that was later called Hard Knocks 365. In 2019, the team became Sanford MMA after brokering a title sponsorship with Sanford Health.

Kill Cliff has already been active in MMA, sponsoring UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and UFC color commentator Joe Rogan. Hooft said the deal was brokered between the team, Sanford and Kill Cliff, through Kill Cliff partner Dave Martin, who is also a prominent MMA agent.