Coach Mike Winkeljohn’s office is a busy place. I sat down with him there recently inside the Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA Academy in Albuquerque. And despite getting interrupted by fighters, cleaners, and pop divas, the striking specialist and I managed to have an interesting chat on a wide range of subjects.
We spoke of Coach Wink’s working relationship with his partner Greg Jackson, why Wink told Greg to “work Jon’s corner” against Rashad Evans, the problems Rashad poses to Jon Jones, why the betting odds for that fight are fair, what’s next for Keith Jardine, what’s up with Melvin Guillard, the fact that Cowboy was recently kicked in the face by a horse, and who has the best footwork on the team.
Below are some choice quotes from the interview. Watch the video for more.
On his working relationship with Greg Jackson
Greg’s very good at what he does and I like the way we work. We work as a team. I’m more behind the scenes, I kind of enjoy it that way. I get to fine-tune a lot of skills that the guys have, and because Greg goes out and about and talks to everybody, he’s got the reputation, and I get to work with some of the best fighters in the world.
On what he said to Greg Jackson to get him to work Jon Jones’ corner
I was always going to corner Jon, I’ve been working with him from almost day one. And Rashad had left camp. And Rashad’s actually cool with that. We’ve spoken many times and he’s got no problem. He understands everyone’s out to make a living and do their thing. We’ve got a good rapport.
But he upset me in that he kept throwing Greg under the bus. Enough is enough. You have your disagreements, I understand that, but there’s more important things out there. And it’s time for Greg to work in Jon’s corner. Jon’s here everyday, helping everybody else out. I mean John’s that guy. He goes out of his way to help everybody here on the team. So I told Greg, "work his corner."
On Rashad being quick to close the distance
That’s one of Rashad’s best weapons. That and being pretty heavy when he’s on top. I trained Rashad for years so I think he’s explosive I know he’s got the one-punch knockout, so I’m worried about that. And being heavy on top. With that being said, he’s not going to get him. We understand what Rashad needs to do. And Jon’s a great student of the game, and he’s not going to beat us.
On game planning against a friend
It’s actually kind of exciting. It’s not that hard at all. You know what, everyone’s got a job to do at the end of the day. It’s not life or death, I know people can get hurt. But I work with Jon Jones now. Rashad had left. I still consider him somebody who I’d welcome into my house. But Jon’s a guy who I hope I keep training for the rest of his career.
On how the Rashad fight plays out
I see it playing out like the Rampage fight. Jon’s going to impose his will, start picking Rashad apart. Rashad’s going to have a very hard time closing the gap. My job is to have Jon’s footwork, his levels, and is striking in such a manner that Rashad can’t get there, can’t take him down, can’t be heavy. But we’re prepared for that as well, and Jon’s going to come out on top. It’s going to be great.
On the odds (Jones is currently at -500)
Yeah I think that’s fair. Everybody’s seen what Jon’s done to the rest of the division...[Rashad’s] going to have to get lucky with some shots and need more skills than he has.
On what's next for his long-time fighter and recent business partner Keith Jardine
Keith’s coming toward the sunset of his career, there’s no doubt. You know, nothing lined up, he’s in here working all the time, still working on his skills, trying to get better. He wants to end his career the right way. Nothing has been chosen yet.
On Melvin’s slide, which coincidentally is perfectly aligned with his joining the Blackzillians.
You know what, he came to us, and I think we got him calmed down. Greg got him where he’s calm enough that he could get back up. And then I started working on footwork and getting him to start throwing some knees and focusing on throwing the power punches at the right time. And Melvin started running through people.
I enjoyed what we did. He was not happy with something. I’m not sure it was because I know the striking sure in the heck was great. We have people around here that can wrestle and do all kinds of crazy things off their back. So I’m not sure why he was looking around. But he has split since. That said I wish him the best for Melvin and I hope he figures it out.
On Donald Cerrone’s loss to Nate Diaz
There was a lot of emotion, no doubt about it, he wanted to beat Nate at his own thing. It was one of those bad nights. Because Cowboy can move his head, he can slip punches. It was one of those days that he just took punches and decided to stay there. He had been kicked in the face by a horse, too, a couple of fights back. That worried me two fights ago. I didn’t know it was going to still affect him for this fight. He’s never complains about it but I know it hurt him.
On who has the best footwork on the team.
John Dodson is using his speed and his footwork to gain small angles and knock people out. He was always just throwing punches in bunches but now he’s got incredible footwork that way. Probably Little John’s probably got the best. Diego Brandao is starting to understand how to hunt people, but he’s still open on some things.