While Carlos Condit may have come away with a unanimous decision loss against UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 154 last Saturday night (Nov. 17, 2012), he can still be proud of his performance.
He's the first man to seriously threaten a finish against "Rush" since St. Pierre originally lost his title to Matt Serra way back in 2007 and despite a cut that covered half of his face and the cage floor in a pool of blood, Condit never stopped fighting.
With coach Greg Jackson sitting on the sidelines while his two pupils battled for the unified title, his partner in crime Mike Winkeljohn, the striking coach from Albuquerque took a slightly expanded role in Condit's training camp to help the interim champion prepare for the biggest fight of his career.
Winkeljohn spoke to MMAmania.com about Condit's performance on fight night, the combination that nearly finished the fight in the third round and the amount of damage "The Natural Born Killer" dealt throughout the fight in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In terms of leading Condit's camp, was that new to you or were you still relegating parts to Izzy Martinez and Ciao Terra like you normally would to Greg Jackson?
Mike Winkeljohn: Well, the camp went about pretty much like it always does. I'm always involved in the gameplanning anyways behind the scenes. Not that much changed. Izzy Martinez and Chris Luttrell both worked a lot of the wrestling. Ciao Terra was new to the camp as far as jiu-jitsu instead of Greg Jackson, so we pretty much just replaced one guy with the other and moved forward. It wasn't any different at all.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So you didn't have much of an expanded role or anything in the absence of Greg?
Mike Winkeljohn: I was the go-to guy for the media stuff. Usually I let Greg do that stuff because I don't like it but with the exception of the media, everything was about the same. Usually Greg and I make the decisions together and this time I probably made a few more decisions myself without the guys but we're kind of a team that works together anyways. We understand that everybody's got their roles and they know the fighter's specific abilities and their opponent's abilities. We trust each other as a coach.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What about corner strategy? That's usually where Greg plays a significant role in fights but you were the go-to guy that was coming up with everything that needed to be said to Carlos in between rounds this time around.
Mike Winkeljohn: Well go back and watch the Diaz fight. Greg had to catch his breath and then usually I take over and give instructions like in the Jon Jones fight. Usually I give them all the instructions the same, but if it hits the ground, then Greg does most of the talking and I'll give them some things to keep it from hitting the ground if we're supposed to be striking and standing up, I do most of the talking anyways. It was more the perception of my role that changed than anything.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about the Condit-GSP fight. I was impressed with Condit on the feet. He did some really good things, especially his combinations. It seemed like every time he did hit St. Pierre with something solid, it was during a combination. Was that something you saw during the fight too?
Mike Winkeljohn: Yeah, I saw that in the fight but I think the most important fight was getting off first. The only times that Carlos got off first, especially when we were able to engage, we were successful. Carlos always has the ability to follow-up and throw combinations. That's inherent in him. He's got that killer instinct. I think the crux of the fight was getting off first before Georges could get you in the shooting path, get your timing on your footwork and try to take you down. I think that was the key to the fight and that worked for us on many occasions and definitely didn't work for us on a lot of others.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The combination that ended up hurting St. Pierre, that was very similar to one of Condit's most successful combinations that he threw against Nick Diaz. Was that a similar set-up?
Mike Winkeljohn: Well, it was the opposite foot, a bit different style. Carlos has really long legs and the off-angle stuff is something that he knows to do. It was a little different but also a little bit the same. Carlos can end his punches with his kicks and off-angle really well. I thought that was our chance to finish him. After five or six strikes, I was figuring I'd want to get extension again instead of getting back into Georges' game but Georges is a tough guy. He's been through a lot and he's stronger mentally than ever before.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Were you impressed with Carlos' warrior spirit during the fight? I think a lot of guys would be pretty discouraged getting taken down and controlled like that pretty much ad nauseum.
Mike Winkeljohn: Well you know what? I was definitely impressed with his warrior spirit but I look back at the fight and I know we were losing the fight because Georges was on top, but honestly, look at Georges' face after. Really, we probably did as much damage if not more from the bottom as Georges did from the top. He was on top controlling and imposing his will. He got the takedown points. In the stand-up, of course, we hurt him more. There's no doubt Carlos was a great warrior and he was in the game.
I'll tell you what. If we would have had a round or more of that, that would have taken its toll on Georges because we weren't going anywhere.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah, I noticed in the fifth round Carlos stuffed at least one takedown. It seemed the tide was starting to turn a little bit. So that was something you saw too?
Mike Winkeljohn: After the fourth round, I told him he had to knock him out, that he had to go out there and do it. He said, "Yes sir." I kind of had goose bumps because I really felt Carlos was gonna do what he nearly did do, that it was gonna work for us. After he got extension on that first single leg takedown attempt, I think it was the first one of the fifth round, I felt good, like "Here we go," but again, Georges is the best at what he does. That's why he's Georges St. Pierre.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Physically, was St. Pierre just as imposing as you expected especially coming off the knee injury?
Mike Winkeljohn: Yeah, he was the same Georges. That's what Carlos wanted anyways, to fight the best Georges St. Pierre out there. I think that he was just as good and he brought a couple new things to the table that he hadn't done before. He was getting Carlos closer and closer to the cage and then shooting in and he never used to do that. I think he was worried about running into something in the center of the cage when Carlos was getting off first which is kudos to Carlos and his ability to scare people with something he can do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): My last thing, for Carlos, are you expecting he'll be out long? He had a pretty bad cut during the fight.
Mike Winkeljohn: The cut will heal and that won't keep him from coming back. He's had some knee injuries in the past, some elbow injuries in the past. He's had some things, little things, nothing serious, but we want him to heal well and take a vacation. He was in training camp for a loooong time. He hadn't fought since February but really, he hadn't stopped training. He was learning new things and the man needs a break and he'll come back better than ever. The submissions you saw him attempt against Georges St. Pierre would have worked against almost anybody else. He will get better at those and the better he gets at those, the more he'll let his hands and feet go because there will be no fear of being on the ground. People haven't seen anything yet.