It’s rare that a team with so much success would come under such scrutiny, but Greg Jackson has been dealing with negative comments hurled at his squad recently. Over the last few years, Jackson’s team has had as much if not more success than any fight team in the sport of MMA, but the detractors have still set their sights on the New Mexico based camp.
UFC president Dana White recently questioned Jackson’s role in the corner telling middleweight Nate Marquardt he was winning his fight against Yushin Okami instead of urging him to go for the kill. White went further in a later interview stating that many fighters that join Team Greg Jackson end up with a “safety first” mentality when it comes to their approach to fighting.
Jackson stands by his team and his coaching techniques. When looking at the big picture, he believes the numbers speak for themselves.
“Not all of our fights, we have a lot of fighters, not all of them are going to be barnburners. I kind of put out a list of all of ours for this year. Out of the 22 UFC’s this year, we had 12 Fight of the Night, Knockout of the Night, Submission of the Night… 12 awards I guess you could say, so what that breaks down to is one out of every two UFC’s you watch, one of the guys on my team is going to go home with one of the bonuses,” Jackson told MMAWeekly.com. “Which I think is pretty fair. I think it means we’re at least trying to finish fights and trying to have exciting fights. So I think the criticism’s unfounded.”
When getting his fighters ready, Jackson has a set mentality for his fighters and that’s always to go for the finish. Of course it doesn’t always work out that way, but he in no way instills a stalling or “safety first” strategy when it comes fight time.
“Mentally you always want to prepare for a 15-minute fight, but you always want to fight for the finish,” Jackson said. “We always try to finish because that’s the smartest way to fight. If you fight not to lose, in other words if you’re just holding somebody down, every minute that clock takes away, he could possibly get up and knock you out. For me that doesn’t make a lot of logical sense.
“I’d rather put somebody away in the first round like a lot of my fighters do. But mentally you want to be ready for a 15-minute war. You don’t want to go in like, ‘I’m going to finish this guy in the first round,’ and when he’s still there you go through these mental breaking points, and it’s not good.”
There has been a line drawn recently beyond Jackson’s camp in regards to the argument between fighting to be exciting and fighting to win by any means necessary. The key, Jackson says, is to fight smart while going for the win, and everything else will solve itself.
“To me, being exciting and being a winner are the same thing. I never game plan to stall out a fight,” said Jackson. “If it happens that way it’s usually because we can’t find our rhythm, or we’re not working real well, or we’re being methodical.
“Especially nowadays I really focus on people trying to get the win because you do want to win, but if you’re winning all the time being boring, all the fans hate you. So when you lose one, everyone is going to be calling for your blood. So it’s better to have a good balance, to be exciting, but not be an idiot.”
The New Mexico team represents some of the top fighters in the world in several weight classes, including Rashad Evans, Jon Jones, Carlos Condit, and Georges St-Pierre. Jackson wants all of those fighters along with the rest of his camp to be successful in the sport, but doesn’t want to see them throw caution to the wind just for the sake of being exciting.
This is just the latest criticism coming Jackson’s way, he admits, because there’s always going to be something people will pick apart when a team builds a reputation in MMA. During the summer of 2007, several Jackson’s team members suffered losses and the MMA world started to wonder if the guru that many fighters call “Yoda” had somehow lost his touch.
“The reason that I never take this stuff too personal is that it just constantly changes,” Jackson commented. “So I’ll defend one thing or I’ll fix one thing and we had that what I call a ‘dark summer’ where everybody lost in a row, so I re-evaluated what I needed to do and change things and of course we’ve been on a tear ever since. We’ve lost fights, obviously, since then, and we’ve had some great wins, but overall, we’re very high in our winning percentage. Then now we’re overrated, ‘all of Greg Jackson’s guys are overrated;’ then we’re boring, ‘oh now all of Greg’s guys are boring.’ So I systematically defend each one of those arguments. It will be a new argument in a minute. That’s just the way it is.
“I’m just not the guy that’s going to sit there and say ‘oh I guess we are boring fighters.’ Just like in that list we have so many first round finishes, so many knockouts, so many awards.”
Defensive or not, Jackson does make one thing perfectly clear. He’s happy to show why his team remains one of the premier camps in all of MMA, but not at the expense of going after anyone in particular.
“I also want to go on record saying I’m not attacking anybody, I’m just kind of defending my team. Dana White is seriously my hero. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he is the reason I’m able to make any kind of living, like I have a nice house and stuff, is because the UFC is so popular,” Jackson stated.
“All my fighters can make a living because of him. He’s been nothing but nice and respectful to me, nothing against the guy at all. I want to make sure everybody knows that, but if people and fans maybe not look at the whole big picture, they might see a bad fight here or there, and then they forget about the 19 other great fights that we had including all of these awards.”
The Jackson camp will surely move ahead and continue to be successful, but the guru himself is happy to step up and put out a few fires every now and again. Sometimes that’s just the price you pay for success.