Greg Jackson: It was good for Jones but terrible for Rashad.
To quote Bloody Elbow Editor Emeritus Luke Thomas, Greg Jackson is truly peerless. Jackson is responsible for the ascension of several of MMA's top pound for pound fighters. His work with fighters like Georges St. Pierre and Rashad Evans have made career altering differences and with his latest pupil, the meteoric Jon Jones, on the cusp of glory, the praise continues to build Jackson's profile as the most sought after trainer/coach in all of mixed martial arts. I sat down with Coach Jackson this weekend and in his Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview he talked about being blessed to work with so many great fighters and shared his thoughts on Jones's upcoming title bout with Maurico "Shogun" Rua at UFC 128.
"Well you know we just have to make sure he [Jones] peaks at the right time again," Jackson explained. "That is very important. That he stays creative and in love with it so that he doesn't get burned out. Otherwise we just game plan like we always do, make sure that we watch those things and make sure that he has a good time. It was a real bittersweet moment because Rashad is so close to me and when he got injured and Jon had to step in. It was good for Jon but terrible for Rashad. He had waited all that time to get his shot so there was no celebrating for me."
Jones has quickly risen to a status rarely achieved by young fighters in the sport. The buzz surrounding the Endicott New York native is tremendous and the UFC had to err on the side of caution as they brought the young prospect up through the rankings. The world was supposed to gain an accurate indicator on Jones's progression at UFC 126 as he faced unbeaten wrestling powerhouse Ryan Bader in the night's co-main event. Jones once again showed just a flash of his skill set as he made short work of the TUF winner, submitting Bader in the second round. Immediately following the fight the UFC publically offered Jones the bout with Rua, an opponent who possesses far greater weapons than anything Jones has seen in his young career.
"The thing about that is Jon [Jones] is not a complete fighter yet for me. He's still learning. If he wins this fight against Rua then that is great but if he loses this fight it doesn't really matter to me because he's improving and he's getting better. The Jon Jones you see just turned 23. Wait three years. Wait four years...just wait until we really get him going and then you will see who Jon Jones is. If he can keep his head, stay focused during all of this success and he is "that" individual like GSP is then there are great things in his future."
In addition to the buzz surrounding the title bout at UFC 128 there has been a bit of dust up in the media between Jones and Rashad Evans. After Jones accepted the title fight, Rashad Evans publically stated that he would not face Jones if his friend and teammate were to be successful in defeating Rua at UFC 128. Since that statement Jones has come out to say that while fighting Evans is the last thing he wishes to do, if the UFC and Dana White absolutely demanded, he would take the fight. This prompted Evans to echo the sentiment and while if the matchup were to occur Greg Jackson would have a decision to make, he is positive it isn't the decision that would be the hard part.
"It's definitely difficult and it's a situation that I always up to the fighters and how they feel about it," Jackson replied when asked about teammates fighting one another. "I don't want anything to do with it. But then again I have an easy position. I hold a bucket so it's really not up me."
Regardless if the hypothetical matchup between Jones and Evans ever becomes reality, Jackson first has to get Evans back to action. In a recent interview with Evans he expressed interest in making it back for the July 2nd card and that is a mark that Jackson is shooting for as well.
"I hope so. Rashad is one of the most amazing fighters I have ever trained. He's amazing at what he does, he's so fast and I am so lucky that I get to train him because he is another one of those guys like GSP and Jon Jones in my opinion that really has potential that people really haven't seen yet. I mean you have seen flashes of it but I believe he's really going to shock the world and prove that he is one of the best fighters ever."
Another fighter under Jackson's tutelage who recently found a big victory is former season one TUF winner Diego Sanchez. "The Dream" (as he is now called) defeated Xtreme Couture product Martin Kampmann in a controversial decision victory at UFC Live on Versus 3 last week. Sanchez began his professional career working with Jackson but after issues over Diego's place in the camp's hierarchy arose, Sanchez and Greg Jackson parted ways. For two years Sanchez trained in San Diego but after deciding to return to the welterweight division, he returned to Albuquerque and resumed his training with Jackson.
"He's had two great fights in a row," Jackson stated. "This last fight wasn't as tight as I would have liked and we need to make some improvements but that is what fighting is all about...learning. His fight before this one as well showed good signs and he's unveiled a really good style that we are putting together for him. He did great in this last fight."
Jackson continued as he laughed, "He also received a really good bonus for this fight."