Albuquerque, NM—Coach Greg Jackson has earned a likeness in the MMA community to a certain diminutive trainer of Jedi masters. The comparison is unsought, but his office, a well-worn guru cave, certainly plays the part.
Stacked and strewn with little regard for visibility, or even order, are various pieces of physical evidence of the esteem awarded to the world-class camp he runs. This includes an assortment of Yoda paraphernalia collected on Jackson’s behalf—from slippers to wall hangings, to a Jedi mind Contcol training device.
Lately, Coach Jackson has been dealing with some tremors in the force. After managing for years to avoid fights between members of his team, Jackson got blindsided by the sudden imminence, or so it seemed, of a light heavyweight title scrap between champion Jon Jones and his teammate, former champ Rashad Evans.
Although the fight eventually fell through, it wasn’t long before a similar situation arose just a few months later, when Carlos Condit was offered a title fight against Jackson’s stable-mate Georges St-Pierre. This time, however, Jackson was ready, with a system of protocols in place that had already been agreed upon by his fighters, regarding how such situations would be handled.
Bleacher Report joined coach Jackson in his cave recently to get his take on a variety of topics, including body shots, game-planning against Anderson Silva, the first teammate vs. teammate fight in Jackson camp history, and the star-making power of the Jackson’s MMA Series fight cards, held regularly in Albuquerque.
On teammates fighting each other:
When that first happened with Rashad and Jon it really caught me off guard. My fault for not handling that better. I should have had protocols in place before that, but I just never thought it would be a huge reality.
It turned out to be a huge reality, so we put protocols in place, had team meetings. Everyone’s on the same sheet of music now. So when it happened between Carlos and Georges, everybody was kind of ready for it. If teammates fight teammates, there’s things that we’ll all do.
It’s one of the things it has to be done. It’s the UFC. It’s the big show. You can’t deny people their dreams. Carlos really wants the title; Georges really wants to keep it. They should have a great fight.
On how UFC 137 will be handled:
I’m going to have two fighters that night. I’ll have Donald Cerrone and Eliot Marshall. So I’ll have those two guys and the other coaches [Mike Winkeljohn and Chris Luttrell] on our team will take care of the last fight. It’s one of those things.
I don’t like it. It’s not something I enjoy, but it’s something we have to do. That’s the job sometimes. So I’ll just be staying out of it.
On looking across the gym during the next few weeks, and seeing his coaches prepare Carlos to punch GSP in the face:
It’s something that I’m not involved in on either end, so it’s not going to be incredibly hard. I’m sure Carlos is going to try and do his job and win the fight; Georges is going to try and do his job and win the fight. It doesn’t concern me either way, I won’t be training either guy.
It’s not like this huge emotional thing because we’re ready for it now. We understand that’s what it’s going to be like.
On being blindsided by the realities of his camp’s success:
We have to grow and evolve to the situation, and the demands of that situation and the reality is we've got a lot of top guys in almost every single weight division of the UFC—and that’s the best organization in the world.
So we have to adapt and make sure that we’re not selfish and it’s not about me it’s about the fighters and we have to make sure they all get their chance.
On the possibility, if Brian Stann gets by Chael Sonnen, of preparing for Anderson Silva:
Well, you know I've done it before. Anderson is one of my favorite fighters. I love him. I think he’s an amazing artist. I love, love watching him fight. He’s one of the very few hyper-creative fighters out there that I like to watch.
You know, I shouldn’t say that, there’s a lot of good creative fighters I like but I just like the way he…does his things; it’s very impressive. So yeah, we have to figure out a way to win, and that’s going to be very hard, and we’ll see how that goes.
On Jackson’s fighters landing a lot of effective body shots lately:
Everything should be balanced. I think people aren’t used to the body attacks at this point in MMA. Certainly they are in boxing. I think that so many people have been headhunting for so long in MMA that people have been leaving their bodies exposed, and we've been taking advantage of that.
On the Jackson’s MMA series, which happens four times a year at the Hard Rock Café in Albuquerque:
It’s a great place for these young guys to get their feet wet, see if the cage life is what they want, if MMA is the path they want to pursue. It’s to help our guys get to the big fights and to the big stage.
So you see these young guys with talent develop and grow, and next time you see them it might be in the UFC. [According to Jackson’s manager, Ricky Kottenstette, six fighters have gone to either the UFC or Strikeforce after fighting on Jackson’s MMA Series cards.]
On Jodie Esquibel, an Albuquerque firefighter and paramedic, long-time pro boxer, now 1-0 as a pro in MMA (and engaged to Keith Jardine):
She’s amazing, she’s amazing. She had a great fight, she had a beautiful head kick in her [April 9th] debut. She’s going to box again [against Ji-Hyun Park on November 19 in Goeje City, South Korea] and then she’s going to be switching more to MMA. She’s phenomenal. Great athlete, great person, and very talented fighter.
On the new Jackson’s satellite gym he’s opening in Albuquerque:
It’s going to be a lot more curriculum-oriented, whereas here it’s more for the fighters. Up there you’re going to get a lot more of the basics, a lot more individual attention.
The hardcore fighters are going to stay here at this location. We’re going to get the people that are just having a good time learning how to defend themselves and getting in shape; those guys will be at the new gym. It will be nice because the two won’t be getting in the way of each other.
Does that mean I’ll be losing my chance to spar with Jon Jones?
You can spar with him any time you want. I wouldn’t recommend it though.