When the discussion begins about where the best camp to train in MMA is, there are only a few gyms that pop up. Plenty of gyms have produced champions and contenders. AKA, Black House, American Top Team, Team Alpha Male, and many other gyms are filled with champions and highly ranked fighters, but usually one gym stands above the rest when talking about the sheer number of top guys to come out of a single gym.
Jackson's MMA in Albuquerque, NM is commonly considered the top gym in MMA today. At every weight class, Jackson's MMA has a contender that on anyone one night could be the best in the world. Jackson's MMA is so crowded with top talent that instead of discussing which top talents might get a shot, more discussion is made of fighters who are teammates at that gym that won't fight each other. There is so much quality talent in one place that it could potentially clog the top of many divisions in years to come if they will not fight each other. GSP doesn't look to be going anywhere, and guys like Jon Jones and Shane Carwin are always threats for the top spot in their respective divisions.
With all this success, there has to be a down side. In fighting, I don't see the downside as losing. With the exception of the rare draw and no contest, every fight produces a loser. In MMA, losing is not the be all end all. Fighters lose all the time and can come right back to the top of the heap with a few wins. One of MMA's biggest stars, BJ Penn, loses often but the fans still come out to see him fight and he is one of the biggest draws the UFC has to offer. The downside of MMA, as all combat sports, is fighter safety. Boxing offers plenty of examples of when fighters weren't protected and pay later in life, but MMA is still young and this hasn't marred the sport yet. It is coming, and it isn't as far away as we would like to think. Greg Jackson trains two of the fighters that unfortunately, I see being the poster children for MMA and fighter safety.
Andrei Arlovski and Keith Jardine. Both of these fighters are fierce competitors, always providing a great show that fans can look forward to whenever they are on a card. Both of these fighters train out of Jackson's MMA. Both of these fighters have been involved in classic fights that fans will remember for a long time to come. And now, both of these fighters have been KO'd more times than we would like to remember and have taken more punishment than humans should take.
I believe that good trainer looks out for his fighters. Fighters are stubborn people and are true warriors at heart. They want to compete. They want to go out and put on a show for the crowd. But fighters don't know their limits. They won't quit. It takes someone close to them to look out for them and try and protect their long term health. It might not work. Everyone wanted Chuck Liddell to walk away. He couldn't do it. Not all fighters will walk away when the time is right. Coaches should be there to provide guidance.
"I think he's going to come back a better fighter," Jackson said recently on the Sherdog Radio Network's "Beatdown" show. "You have to remember I'm a diehard optimist. It's really hard to discourage me or tell me it shouldn't be done or it can't be done. I'm a guy that I think I know what to do to fix it. I'm going to try everything I can to do that."
Just like his fighters, Greg Jackson doesn't want to give up. If he were to admit that he feels Andrei should retire, that would be him admitting defeat. He couldn't fix the problems he was presented with and his fighter lost because of it. For a trainer with as much pride as Greg Jackson, I would imagine it would be hard for him to give in and surrender. Even though it goes against every combat sports is about, sometimes you have to throw in the towel.
Greg Jackson has plenty of fighters with plenty of problems to fix. He doesn't have to fix Andrei Arlovski. He doesn't have to fix Keith Jardine. Putting those guys out there time after time makes even the most bloodthirsty fans cringe a little bit. I know I tighten up everytime I see Arlovski take a punch. When Jardine is an exchange, I almost want to close my eyes. As great as the violence in MMA is, I don't want to see anybody permanently hurt. Both of these fighters are great athletes and I love watching them compete, and even I don't need to see anymore. Sometimes enough is enough. I want Greg Jackson to go down as one of the all time best coaches, not the coach that let his fighters go for too long. Instead of being optimistic about their next fight, Greg Jackson needs to think optimistically about his fighters' futures. If he doesn't, he might leave behind a legacy that nobody would want to be associated with.