Behind the curtain: How MMA master trainer Greg Jackson builds UFC champions


The impact master trainer Greg Jackson has had on the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) has been subtle, but undeniable.

Just who is this mysterious coach out of Albuquerque, New Mexico?

If you ask Dana White, he might tell you Jackson is a guy who coaches fighters to win "safe victories." He might even tell you he's hurting the sport of MMA and causes "boring fights."

If you've been living under a rock, or just haven't been paying attention to , you may have not realized that his storied facility, Jackson's MMA, has produced such professional fighters as:

Georges St. Pierre: Current UFC welterweight champion
Jon 'Bones' Jones: Current UFC light heavyweight champion
Carlos Condit: Former WEC welterweight champion and top UFC welterweight contender
Clay Guida: Former Strikeforce lightweight champion and top UFC lightweight contender
Tom 'Kong' Watson: Current BAMMA middleweight champion
Brian Stann: Former WEC light heavyweight champion and top UFC middleweight contender
Diego Sanchez: Currently one of the top UFC welterweight contenders
Melvin Guillard: Currently working his way up to being a top UFC lightweight contender
Shane Carwin: Former UFC heavyweight interim champion and one of the top UFC 265-pound contenders

Add to that list Rashad Evans, who is a former Jackson fighter (and also a former champion) and still very much a highly ranked contender in the 205-pound division.

Jackson's roster is impressive, but it's no big deal to win when you've got talent, right?

For years, fans and critics have picked at NBA coach Phil Jackson for winning with all-star players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. The idea being that anyone could have won championships with those players (Ask Kevin Loughery, Doug Collins, Rudy Tomjanovich and Frank Hamblen if that's true).

It isn't what you've got, it's what you DO with what you've been given. It isn't the arrow, it's the archer.

Let's reflect.

Georges St. Pierre: I'm not going to pretend like GSP was a bum before he met Jackson. He wasn't. But before he started working mainly with Jackson, he was widely regarded as being "very good." He had "potential." After his UFC 69 loss to Matt Serra, St. Pierre made the jump to the Jackson camp (he had trained with Jackson fighters before that point, but was not officially in the Jackson camp). Since that time, GSP has won nine fights in a row, became the welterweight champion and successfully defended his belt six times. He is considered by many to be either the number one or two top pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world. Not bad.

Jon 'Bones' Jones: Bones joined Jackson's MMA in 2009 before his "loss" to Matt Hamill. Although he was undefeated prior to joining, he’s been an absolute terror since that point in time. Overlooking the slight blemish of the Hamill disqualification, he hasn’t been beaten since. He won the title under Jackson and had rapidly moved his way up the ladder while in his camp.

Carlos Condit: After his split decision win over Jake Ellenberger in 2009, Condit joined up with Jackson. Since then, he has gone 3-0, with KO/TKO victories over Rory MacDonald, Dan Hardy, and Dong Hyun Kim. He is now one of the top contenders in the welterweight division.

Brian Stann: Stann has always been a good striker, but not always a very well-rounded MMA fighter. Since joining up with the Jackson camp, Stann has gone 5-1 and become a much more complete fighter. He's one of the top guys in the middleweight division and shouldn't be terribly far from getting a title shot.

Clay Guida: 'The Carpenter' started with Jackson right before his fight vs. Kenny Florian. He lost that fight by submission, but had only been training with Jackson for a few months at that point. Since then, he has won four fights in a row (three by sub). Like Stann, Guida is also well on his way to getting a title shot.

Melvin Guillard: Melvin began with Jackson after a loss to Nate Diaz in 2009. Before that point, Guillard's career was a roller coaster, full of ups-and-downs. For every one of his big wins, he was always able to seize defeat from the jaws of victory in one or two surprising losses. Since his time with Jackson's MMA, Guillard has won five fights in a row and has really looked like a totally different fighter.

Diego Sanchez: "The Nightmare""The Dream" started his career with Jackson. Sanchez won 17 fights in a row with Jackson as his coach. After his loss to Koscheck in 2007, he had a public split with Jackson over his (Jackson's) decision to train GSP (who was in his division). Sanchez went 4-3 (including two consecutive losses) after the split, while shuffling back and forth between welterweight and lightweight. In 2010, Sanchez joined back up with Jackson (and moved back to his natural welterweight division), and has since gone 2-0.

In an interview that I did with Jackson-trained fighter Donald Cerrone earlier this year, Cerrone had this to say about Jackson:

"Greg’s a wizard. The way he views the sport is amazing. He’s able to watch a fight and break it down like no one I’ve ever been around before."

At the end of the day, the fighters are the ones who have to go into the cage and win the fights. Greg Jackson just gives them the tools they need to go to the next level. His impact on the sport and on the UFC organization, cannot be denied.

Here's a rundown of the fight schedule for some of Jackson's prominent pupils:

- Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone vs. Charles Oliveira: UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle, August 14
- Tom 'Kong' Watson vs. Frank Trigg: BAMMA 7, September 10
- Diego Sanchez vs. Matt Hughes: UFC 135, September 24
- Jon 'Bones' Jones vs. Rampage Jackson: UFC 135, September 24
- Brian Stann vs. Chael Sonnen: UFC 136, October 8
- Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz: UFC 137, October 29

In the video below, Jackson takes fans "behind the curtain" to hear some of his theories on mixed martial arts, how to train for fights, and survival.

So Maniacs, what say you, is Greg Jackson the builder of champions? Or simply the benefactor of exceptional talent?

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