It’s been a long time since a new training super camp has formed. It’s been even longer, if ever, since one has formed that’s truly focused around the fighters, instead of the gym or it’s patriarchal founder.

The world of pro MMA training has started to reach a stalemate with gyms like Jackson’s MMA, American Top Team, Team Quest, the Blackzilians, Xtreme Couture and Team Alpha Male, to name a few. However, in many cases, the gyms are partially focused on a coach or fighter’s name, partially focused on group exercise classes to generate income, partially focused on generating a franchise name, and all too often, only partially focused on the fight team. This is not necessarily a bad situation, because many of these gyms still turn out champions and contenders. Frankly, its just the status quo.

However, there is a paradigm shift currently taking place in Denver, and one UFC up-and-comer is hoping to reap the benefits all the way to the top of the promotion.

Iowa-born Denver fighter Cody Donovan is a bad, bad dude, in his own right. The 32-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has been fighting professionally for five years. In that time, he has proven he’s a force to be reckoned with. At 8-2, he has only been to decision once, all of his wins have come in dominating fashion, and one of his losses was due to injury. Needless to say, he’s a very exciting fighter with a lot to bring to the table.

Donovan has trained out of UFC, Pancrase and Strikeforce veteran Nate Marquardt’s gym, High Altitude Martial Arts, striking coach Trevor Wittman’s Grudge Training Center and the famous Jackson’s MMA gym, but now he’s at a camp that brings a whole new level of training to the sport.

“I’ve been training with the Elevation Fight Team for this camp,” said Donovan in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I’ve been doing all my training with Leister Bowling, We’ve been doing all of our training here in Colorado at the Easton Training Center in Denver and the MusclePharm facility up north.”

Bowling has been Grudge’s wrestling coach for many years. As an amateur wrestler, he was a three-time Colorado state champion in high school, and at Dana College in Blair, Neb., he was a four-time regional champion, three-time All-American and a national runner-up. Bowling has since taken on coaching as his passion, and with wrestling becoming a dominant fighting modality in MMA, his services are ever so important to fighters.

Bowling and a whole host of other big names and talented trainers got together to form a fight team that was focused solely on fighter performance and not at all on any specific gym and the rigmarole that comes with the business side of the gym itself. The list of people that Donovan has had the opportunity to train with is quite impressive.

“Leister Bowling is my wrestling coach, Eliot Marshall is my head coach, Christian Allen does my striking, Loren Landow does my strength and conditioning,” Donovan stated. “On top of that, I traveled a little bit. I went out to California and did some training with Mark Munoz and all of those guys. I did a little stand-up with my buddy Brendan Schaub. The training partners out here are great, man. I’ve been training for years with Nate Marquardt and all of the Elevation Fight Team at Easton Jiu-Jitsu. It’s been good. A lot of training with Neil Magny, Nate, Brandon Thatch, Vinnie Lopez, Jared Hamman—too many guys to name them all.”

To take a step back, Donovan was already a dangerous fighter. Of his eight pro wins, he holds four knockouts and three submissions, with four of those stoppages coming in the first round. In his UFC debut last December, he knocked out the 11-2 Nick Penner at 4:35 of the first round. Although Donovan came away with a solid knockout win in the end, he had a couple reckless rushes-in that nearly cost him the fight.

About one minute into the fight, as Donovan came flying in, Penner caught him with a counter right that sent him to the mat, but Donovan quickly recovered with some guard attacks from his back. Then, at about the midway point of the round, Donovan came flying in again and got caught with a right uppercut that almost knocked him out. After another ground scramble, when the fighters were back on their feet, Donovan caught Penner with a solid left, sending his opponent to the mat, where he finished with a ground-and-pound flurry. He came away with the win, but also some valuable lessons.

“I didn’t get to showcase a ton of my skills in that fight,” admitted Donovan. “One of the things that I was able to take away from it is that I know that even when the fight gets rough, I still muscle through. A lot of guys get knocked down or whatever and that ends the fight. But, I got lots of heart, toughness or whatever you want to call it. The best thing I took away from that fight is to relax and fight as hard as I can, and it pays off.”

One caveat to his UFC debut is that Donovan took that fight on only nine days’ notice, replacing an injured Eddie Mendez. Considering that Donovan was fighting in Australia on barely over a week’s notice, with travel and weigh-ins dipping into training time, it’s safe to say that his performance was pretty amazing. Imagine Donovan on a full camp.

Well, fortunately, fight fans don’t have to imagine for very much longer. They are in for a big treat this weekend at the inaugural UFC on Fox Sports 1 card as Donovan enters the cage once again, on American soil, fully trained and ready to show the UFC brass why he belongs in the Octagon.

‘I had a good, long camp,” Donovan stated. “It’s the longest camp I’ve had in three years. I’ve had a lot of short-notice camps, and for this one, I had a good, full camp to train.

“It was different that we had a full camp to prepare for one guy. I’m always training, so I stay in good shape, and that’s allowed me to take a lot of short-notice fights in a few years. For this particular fight, I was able to have my coaches analyze videotape on him and build a game plan and kind of train a certain skill set for this fight specifically. There are certain rules for fighting a southpaw and ways to combat some of the things he does well and whatever. And I’ve had a good nine weeks of drilling that has prepared me to fight him, rather than just preparing me to fight [in general].”

The opponent that Donovan will face for his second UFC fight is no stranger to the bigger stages. Thirty-year-old Ovince St. Preux, 13-5 as a pro, has been fighting for five years now and his last seven fights have been in Strikeforce or UFC action. Like Donovan, St. Preux is a well-rounded fighter with six wins by knockout, three by submission and four by decision. Of his five losses, he has only been stopped once by knockout.

Wrestling as a youth in Florida and playing football at the University of Tennessee, NFL quarterback Peyton Manning’s alma mater, St. Preux didn’t start training in martial arts until after college. Donovan knows his opponent, knows his history, and welcomes the challenge of a guy who’s been on bigger stages.

“I don’t really care who they put in front of me,” said Donovan. “I just want to fight. I’ve trained with him a little bit. He’s a good dude. I mean, I like him, but we’ll go out there and fight real hard. I think it makes for a good fight. He’s an exciting guy, and I think it’ll be a good fight.”

Having trained with his opponent in the past, Donovan has a good idea of what St. Preux brings to the table.

“He’s a strong wrestler,” Donovan said. “He’s got a good reach—a long reach—when it comes to the striking. I know that I’ve been doing this longer. I have a better ground game. I think I’m better at mixing up the tools. You know, mixing up wrestling with punches, and things like that. He’s got a little more experience than me in the amount of fights that he has. I’ve heard some people say he’s fought on bigger stages and stuff with the time he’s spent in Strikeforce, but I don’t really care. I fight the man, not the name, you know? I’ll just go out there and fight him. I like it, man. I like the match-up.”

Anyone who has seen Donovan fight in the past, including in his short-notice Octagon debut, knows that he is an in-your-face fighter who prefers not to leave anything in the hands of the judges. His strategy therefore comes as no surprise.

“Start fast, finish strong,” Donovan intimated. “I think the longer the fight goes, the more it goes to my favor. My conditioning is on point right now. I’m in a good place mentally. I’ve had some slow starts in fights in the past, where I had to get punched up a little bit to get going, and I would like to avoid that, so I’ll get a good warm-up backstage and start the fight right away and just let it unfold.”

And unfold it will. This Saturday night, Donovan is set for the biggest, most important fight of his career, but he is only looking to go up from there. Never looking past an opponent, he knows he’s getting older and his sense of urgency is bigger than ever. He has big ambitions for the next 16 months.

“You know, I think Ovince is a big step up in my career, right now,” explained Donovan. “So I’ve been vocal with the UFC to let them know that I’m one of those guys that they can call on short notice and that I’m going to stay prepared. I’m 32 years old and I want to get as many fights as I can, you know? Hopefully, I would like to turn around and fight again this year, before the year’s over. As far as who? I don’t care.

“After this fight, I’m going to be asking for another one right away. I’d love to fight in Denver. I’d love to fight in Ireland. I’ve got a goal for those in 2014, so a little fast-forward. I’d like Dublin, or Denver, obviously.”

With the shift in training programs, Donovan has a more focused camp that most guys at the top of the divisions don’t get. He’s relatively out of the spotlight for now, which allows him to really concentrate on his opponent. Fans are sure to see the best Cody Donovan that has ever graced the ring. But what of his old team at Grudge?

“I love Trevor [Wittman],” Donovan said. “He’s one of my best buddies. He’s coached me for years. He’s one of the best striking coaches on the planet. Me not being there has nothing to do with Trevor or anything. I’ve just been training with Nate and those guys, so I have to go where those guys are.”

So there’s no bad blood on that front. The Elevation Fight Team has a great idea, a good camp at Easton Training Center in Denver, and a killer training facility at MusclePharm’s headquarters. With the stable of coaches and fighters that the new team brings to the table and the elimination of gym politics, the landscape of pro MMA may be forever changing with the Denver MMA scene leading the way.

Eventually, fans will see Cat Zingano, Nate Marquardt and a bunch of other fighters coming out of this new camp, but on Saturday night, live from TD Garden in Boston, Mass., Donovan will come strong, representing his team the way it is intended to be represented and looking to showcase his skills after a nice, full training camp.

Cody would like to thank his coaches and training partners at Elevation Fight Team, his new wife, Julie—they were just married on June 1—and his main sponsor, Fight For The Forgotten, a charitable organization that fights for the rights of the Pygmy people of the Congo region in Africa. Follow Donovan on Twitter: @donnybrookcody