by Mitch Gobetz – MMAWeekly.com (Photo courtesy of Tessa Marquardt)
At UFC 73 tonight, world-renowned trainer Greg Jackson will have his hands full with three of his fighters in high profile fights. Included in his stable of fighters competing at UFC 73 are Nathan Marquardt, Rashad Evans, and Mark Bocek. Each fight is very important and represents significant steps in each fighter’s career.
The last couple years, Jackson’s Submission Fighting, out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has made a big name for themselves with fighter such as the aforementioned Evans, Marquardt and Bocek, as well as Diego Sanchez, Joey Villasenor, Georges St-Pierre, David Loiseau and Keith Jardine. With all of the fighters looking to join the crew over at Jackson’s, Greg has had to cut it down some. “I’ve made the group a little smaller so I can concentrate more and help with game plans,” Jackson told MMAWeekly.
Recently, Jackson’s group has fallen on some hard times. Even after Keith Jardine losing to Houston Alexander, Joey Villasenor losing to Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua, Georges St-Pierre losing his title to Matt Serra and Diego Sanchez losing to Josh Koscheck, Jackson looks to take those losses in stride. “It’s important to remember that those losses are some of the team, but not all of the team,” replied Jackson. “Those losses help us grow as a team as what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong. Every time that we lose, we can take something from it. As long as I’m learning, we’re improving. I hate losing. I want to win so bad. Hopefully, we can move on and see what’s positive in them.”
Jackson’s camp can certainly head in the right direction with a couple victories this weekend. If anything, those losses have fired everyone in the camp up to work even harder. “The losses that we have had on the bigger stage have just made us more motivated.”
With the added amount of fighters on this card from Jackson’s camp, many would think that it’s busier than ever. For Greg Jackson, however, it’s just another day at the office. “We usually have between two and three fighters on the UFC as of late. It’s always intense, but nothing new or different.”
The most hyped fight on the card isn’t the two title fights, but the light heavyweight match-up between ‘The Huntingdon Beach Bad Boy’ Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans. This is Rashad’s largest test to date, but Jackson is 100% confident in his ability. Even though Ortiz has tried to get into Rashad’s head, Evans isn’t deterred by it at all according to Jackson. “The psychological part isn’t a big factor for us. We all know what Tito’s trying to do. It’s a good strategy. But it doesn’t affect Rashad. I think Tito’s a great fighter. I am excited to put Rashad to the test and see what he needs to work on.”
With a win over Ortiz, Rashad has to be considered one of the top contenders in the light heavyweight division, and would more than likely be in line for a title shot. “I don’t even think that far. I just look one fight at a time. I want to see what can be improved on. After the fight, I might think that, but not before.”
The UFC Middleweight title will be on the line as Nate Marquardt takes on Anderson Silva, which has the potential to be a grueling, technical battle. Both fighters are technicians and are very methodical. A solid game plan will be necessary from Marquardt to dethrone Silva. Greg believes that he has developed a strong game plan for Nate to become the new middleweight champion. “We tried to look for littler things,” explained Jackson. “We’re looking for Nate to expose those weaknesses. We want to be aware of those exchanges. We always train specifically for our opponent. We’ve trained to go around Anderson’s strengths.”
Conditioning will not be a factor for Marquardt, even though this is his first foray into a five round fight. “We fully expect a five round war and we’ve trained for it. We didn’t over train. We up a little intensity here and there, but mostly it’s business as usual.”
The belt doesn’t mean much to Greg Jackson. After all, he isn’t the one receiving it. However, Jackson would still like Nate to enjoy it. “It would be great. The belt is for Nate. He’s the one fighting Anderson Silva. It’s not for me. For me, it’s seeing his growth and developing a game plan. At the end of the day, it’s not about that. It’s about being a better trainer.”
Another fighter on the card is Mark Bocek, who is making his UFC debut against Frank Edgar. Edgar had just recently upset lightweight standout Tyson Griffin in what was one of the better fights of the year. Many fans aren’t familiar with Bocek, so Jackson shed some light on him. “Mark trains with Georges St-Pierre in Canada. Georges called to ask if I could train him. I said sure. He’s an amazing athlete, extremely talented. Can kickbox, can takedown, can do jiu-jitsu. Just very talented.” If Bocek is anything like St-Pierre, he could be a very exciting addition to an already ‘stacked’ division.
As for some of the other fighters in Jackson’s stable, Greg informed MMAWeekly of their status. David Loiseau had recently joined the Greg Jackson camp and was victorious in his last fight, but may be out for a little bit. “He broke his hand in his last fight that I cornered him. He won by arm triangle. He’s still recovering but he will be back soon.”
Joey Villasenor recently got knocked out by Ninja, but has already received word of his next fight. “We’re looking at September for him fighting again. We don’t have an opponent yet, but we were told September he’ll be fighting again.”
Last, but certainly not least, Diego Sanchez whose opponent has switched back and forth for the last couple weeks. There was a lot of speculation early on that Sanchez would fight Hayato ‘Mach’ Sakurai. Recently, there had been some talk of BJ Penn fighting Diego. “I don’t exactly know where we’re sitting on the opponent thing right now officially. He’s training again. He’s in San Diego and training boxing with Rob Garcia. Before that he was training with the boys and he’s ready to get back in there soon.”
For now, Jackson is sure to set his laser beam focus on Marquardt, Evans, and Bocek at UFC 73, but then again that is just business as usual.