For all intents and purposes, Greg Jackson should be on Cloud Nine right now. Head trainer at perhaps the most prestigious gym in all of mixed martial arts, Jackson and his fighters have enjoyed a ridiculously successful streak since the beginning of 2010. Georges St. Pierre has defended his welterweight title, most recently against former Strikeforce MW champion Jake Shields last Saturday at UFC 129. His premiere heavyweight,Shane Carwin, successfully bested Frank Mir for an interim championship before falling just short against Brock Lesnar in July; at the same time, TUF runner-up Brendan Schaub has gone undefeated since losing to Roy Nelson. In the lightweight division, Jackson has rising/resurrected contenders in Melvin Guillard (currently holding the deed to Evan Dunham's soul while preparing for Shane Roller) and Clay Guida, not to mention is up-until-now successful mentoring of Donald Cerrone and his transition from the WEC to the UFC. And I haven't even gotten to Nate Marquardt's transition from successful middleweight to 170er, Brian Stann's ascension to contender status, Rashad Evans' successful return to the cage against Rampage Jackson... and his newly crowned champion at 205.
However, the Jackson narrative begins to unravel when we come to those final examples (and, as we'll see later, potentially in some of the earlier ones). Rashad had earned a title shot by defeating Rampage at UFC 114 and elected to wait for the injured champ, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, to come back healthy. When the fight was finally approaching, the injury bug (which, frankly, should have had its fill of Rua by now) latched onto Evans instead, creating a void in the main event for UFC 128. Enter Jon Jones.
Jones, an undefeated prospect that had joined Jackson's in 2009, was slated to face off against fellow unblemished young gun Ryan Bader (fresh off of a victory over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira) a mere six weeks prior to Evan's scheduled title shot. Jones choked Bader out in the second round of their bout at UFC 126 and pretty much avoided being scathed during the process. Immediately after the bout, Joe Rogan informed Bones that the spot opposite Shogun in a month and a half was his for the taking. Jones immediately accepted.
After capturing the belt in dominating fashion, Jones was repeatedly badgered about the possibility of honoring Rashad's promised title shot. Not one to deny a friend what is his (and being of the mindset that champions don't get to veto challengers), Jones announced that he would be willing to take the fight. While Evans accepted, he then went on a tirade against Jackson (with whom Rashad holds a close bond), claiming that Jones was brought onto the team against his wishes and that he was being betrayed in favor of the flavor of the month. This lead Jackson, in an effort to protect his gym's unique brand, to fire back to MMAFighting:
"I love Rashad to death," he told MMA Fighting this week. "I'm not sure why he's angry at me. I guess I can see from a perspective, that isn't really the way it is, why he's angry, but I don't have any animosity towards him. I've always tried to help him out. I was with him right after he won that reality show all the way to his world title. I'm not sure what it is." ...
"The thing with Rashad is, he said he was okay with Jon coming on the team. I felt that Jon did the wrong thing by saying he would fight Rashad. But once they signed to fight, I'm staying out of it. I'm not choosing Rashad over Jon Jones or Jon Jones over Rashad; I'm staying out of the entire thing. Everybody signed on to [Jon] being on the team. It wasn't like I brought him on with these evil intentions. I bring a lot of training partners on to the team who are in the same weight class. For instance, Donald Cerrone, Melvin Guillard, Clay Guida – all these guys are in the same division."
As of now, the situation between Evans and Jackson remains, at least in public, at a standstill. It's still unknown how many members of Jackson's camp will be assisting Evans in his preparation, but it does not appear (as Jackson would clearly prefer) that the number will be or is zero. Keith Jardine, a pioneering member of the Jackson camp, had this to say when the split originally occurred in March:
You know, I haven't thought about it too much, but no question I would be supporting Rashad," Jardine said. "He's one of my closest friends in the world. I have a lot of loyalty and friendship with him." ...
"It'll never be the same, you know? This gym, when the UFC broke out in 2005, was built on me, Rashad, Nate Marquardt, Joey Villasenor and Diego Sanchez...It all started from that interview that Jon did talking about the possibility of fighting with Rashad [with Ariel Helwani on Versus:]," Jardine said. "That's just something that doesn't need to be said. Of course they could have been made to fight, and they both knew it. But for Jon to go out and say that made Rashad look like a punk, and that's kind of what happened to start it all. It was already sensitive, so it blew up after that."
In fact, even some of Jackson's affiliates (and, frequently, a fellow corner man) have publicly distanced themselves from his stance against teammates ever fighting.
After the jump, a flashback to HKL's profile of Trevor Wittman and how his stance differs from Jackson's.