2008: The Year of Greg Jackson

Josh Gross writes:

Best trainer: Greg Jackson

Georges St. Pierre. Rashad Evans. Keith Jardine. Nate Marquardt. Leonard Garcia. There are more, but you get the idea. Few trainers have been as busy or successful as Jackson and his network of coaches in what was a watershed year for the crew from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Cut from the cloth of coaches and trainers who weren't great at their craft but excelled in teaching and explaining, Jackson is best at centering and focusing fighters' minds on the task in front of them. Nowhere has this skill been more prominent than in his time spent with UFC welterweight champion St. Pierre.

A testament to the plug-and-play training methods Jackson employs with associated coaches from Denver to Montreal to New York, he never lets ego get in the way of farming out fighters to specialists. But when it's time to game plan, and work the corner, and support a fighter, few are better than Jackson.

For me, Jackson's talent hits close to home. Watching Jackson coach Johnny Dodson through his fight with Lloyd Irvin-trained Mike Easton was insightful as Dodson's game plan made up the huge distance the size differential caused. Easton got the nod, but no one will tell me the fight was anything but extremely close. Then to watch the same coaching rivalry played out through Keith Jardine besting (albeit barely) Brandon Vera the following week was equally instructive. Irvin, like Jackson, is an intense and thoughtful game planner. To see Jackson do so well and to do so consistently amidst fighters of different sizes, styles and abilities is the rarest of talents.

Does he have the ability to coach his student Rashad Evans over the equally well-prepared and coached Forrest Griffin? We'll find out Saturday, but without question Jackson asserted himself as the creme de la creme in the MMA coaching world in 2008.

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