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Greg Jackson: The man behind the camp that builds champs

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Greg Jackson discusses what it takes to effectively run one of the most successful camps in MMA, as well as weighing in on several current team members and one former team member.

Ethan Miller

When you say the word 'supercamp', Jackson's MMA is the first team to come to mind. There are others, but only one or two can accurately boast a record equal to or better than that of what Jackson's is currently. In the first years of this century, Miletich Fighting Systems set the precedent, producing multiple champions. Now, Greg Jackson is hoping to achieve even loftier heights by establishing a new ceiling with his team.

I recently spoke with Greg to get some insight to his famed camp for our readers. The man that team members affectionately refer to as Yoda, spoke about what he feels the key to success is for Jackson's MMA, the danger zone areas that Chael Sonnen presents to Jon Jones, his feelings about Rashad Evans' fears regarding the longevity of his career future, Andrei Arlovski's progress, and much more.

Andrei Arlovski

It's been a journey of improvement. I think that Andrei has got some good years left in him, even with what happened in this last fight, which was a very close fight. I feel that he's improving and getting better. For me, this is like the first five or six fights of his career where we're learning and kind of growing. That's what it's about for me. As long as you're growing and learning and affecting your life in a positive way, and it's not taking anything from you, I don't see any reason to stop. I think he's just getting started.

In this last fight, the problem wasn't a chin issue, it was a technical issue. If you do certain things against a guy that hits as hard as the guy he was fighting, you're always going to get in trouble. It doesn't matter if you have a rock solid jaw ort not. Anybody can get caught like that and put down. It's a technical issue. It's about what you are doing to get in those situations. If you know you have to tie them up or get on your bicycle, if you do the right thing, insted of just standing in front of them and banging it out, you'll be OK. You're now beginning to see that with Andrei. Even when he does get into trouble, he can work his way out of that trouble and fight back.

Confusion about late bell after first round

I don't really know, but somebody was saying that Andrei took a lot of his damage after the allotted time, so I'm not even really sure. I need to sit back and watch that tape closely to see what happened. He definitely got clipped. Whether that was after the bell, if it really was right at the end there, and the bell was supposed to ring earlier, then we actually have a problem. If the damage that was done to his jaw was done after the legal time, and somebody made a mistake, then that's an actual issue that you might want to contest. I'm not sure if that's the case, so I have to go back and look at the film.

He had his jaw broken at some point in that round. There was blood everywhere and he wasn't breathing very well. He wasn't really able to take over in the second and the third, in my opinion, because of that injury. I think he won the third, no problem, and the second round was extremely close. Part of our gameplan was to come on strong in the last two rounds. If that indeed happened, and I'm not saying it did, we definitely need to take a look at it.

He lost a tooth and sustained a broken jaw in that first round and then went on for two more rounds like that, which just says what kind of warrior he is. You don't get any bigger heart than that. I don't wish that to happen to anybody, but I want people to know how very tough and special Andrei is. This guy is phenomenal, and even in defeat, he can show his greatness.

Leonard Garcia

He's really doing well. I was probably the most proud of his last fight. I actually think he won that fight, I really do. He got great takedowns, his kickboxing looked great, he was moving his head off angles ... he was doing everything I had asked him to do. It was just really nice to see him actually doing it. It was nice seeing him following a gameplan, to put it together, to secure the rounds, while making sure to try and knock the guy out., while also moving his head at the same time. He's progressing, and it's really exciting for me to see.

I'm really excited about this next fight for him. McKenzie has a great guillotine choke and he hits pretty hard, so it's going to be a great test for him. I don't know what the turning point was for him, but he's been way more focused, and way more disciplined. I'm not sure if it was something that clicked with him, but whatever it is, thank God for it.

Jon Jones vs Chael Sonnen

There are a lot of danger zones with Chael. Chael is tougher than a lot of people give him credit for. When we didn't want to fight him on three days notice or whatever, we'd never fight anybody on such short notice for somebody at Jon Jones level. People think he doesn't have any punching power, but then you see him drop Anderson Silva. Once he gets on top of you, it's trouble, and a lot of guys can't seem to get around that ground and pound style, so if you don't do things correctly with him, you get in trouble real quick.

We have to make sure we take him very seriously. He's a very tough opponent and he's very smart. He's going to try to negate the length and push the fight forward, and we have to be ready for that. We have to be ready for a 25 minute, all out war. He's going to try to wear Jon down with his cardio. We have to be ready for all of those eventualities to make sure that Jon is on point and ready and can execute his gameplan. It's not going to be an easy fight.

Carlos Condit

We did get taken down a lot in that fight, so I can see how we lost that, especially at the end of the first round, he kind of dropped him, but we did a ton of damage and aggressive stuff from underneath. If it's a stalemate, in other words, if I'm not really doing anything from the guard on the bottom, and you're not doing anything from the guard on the top, I can see giving the edge to the guy that got the takedown, because obviously it takes skill to achieve that.

However, if you get the takedown, but you're just kind of on the receiving end of a ton of damage, and you're basically just running away from jiu jitsu, I can see an argument being made that you would be losing that round. Even though you controlled how that fight got there, you weren't able to implement what you wanted to do. It's kind of a gray area.

I really thought Carlos did an extremely good job in getting up from those takedowns so fast. We just needed to move a little bit more, and Carlos would get just a little bit too close to Hendricks. He would get him in a little bit of trouble, and then would jump in too much, which got him in trouble with the takedowns.

Those are the little mistakes that I think might have cost us the fight, but I'm just so proud to train Carlos. He's just such an amazing guy and he's such an amazing fighter. I just feel incredibly privileged to help him out.

Cub Swanson

I hope to see him make a run for the title in another fight or two. He's certainly turned the corner, both technically and mentally to be ready to be a champion. Just watching him grow has been one of the most exciting experiences in my career. Watching him find his style and getting to know him and how to coach him, and getting to see him figure out how he likes to fight and how he is most effective, is just incredible. I'm so proud to see his growth and how he's coming at the world. I could gush about him all day long.

We got past his hand issues with a few things. One was the hand wraps. The Diaz brothers, Joel and Antonio, those guys do a great job wrapping his hands. I also think he's getting really sharp with his punches. He's not hitting the top of the head, he's not hitting elbows. He's getting really accurate. He's putting punches where they need to be, when they need to be there. I think that's actually helping to protect his hands a lot.

Rashad Evans' recent statement regarding fear of getting cut

I absolutely feel for him. I still see him, and we talk when we're at the same fights. I love that guy to death. I hope that he wins and that he has a job, because he's a great guy, and no matter what he said or what he's done, I'm not going to hold that against him. I don't hold grudges against friends that might have been a little too emotional at the time. I certainly hope that he has a job, because he is a great fighter and he deserves it. I wish him all the best.

Team Loyalty

It's always nice to see the camraderie shine through, especially in different circumstances. I've always said that's what makes our team really special. We have this kind of 'All for one and one for all' attitude. Even with the size of the team, I mean there's no other team that's as big as ours, at least with the UFC (has as many UFC fighters), I think ATT might be close, but we definitely have the most active, and even with that large size, and all the other organizations we represent, the core loyalty is always there and I'm very proud of it.

Successful management of a supercamp

Well, the secret is, I have great coaches that are much better than I am, starting with Mike Winkeljohn, going all the way down. I couldn't do it without them. It's really a team effort.

There are times when I have group sessions with all the guys, and I also do private lessons for the UFC guys a lot. I just try to give as much as I can. I do go through periods of burnout where I'm like, 'Oh my God, I've got to get some kind of rest', and some fighters get upset because they don't get the attention that they're used to when I'm going through those periods. A lot of the fighters are very understanding about it, though. Most of the time, I'm pretty good about giving everybody attention and taking care of people.

I would say that more than tight reins and strict discipline, the biggest key to our success is my individual approach with each fighter. Some people respond really well to me yelling at them, and some people respond better to me asking them nicely. I think it comes down to being very cognizant of an individual approach for every single fighter.

The understanding that each and every fighter comes at things a little bit differently, and getting to know them and approaching them in the right way is what makes it happen. I will approach a Cub Swanson differently than I would a Cowboy Cerrone or a Jon Jones. Everybody has their own unique style, and I just need to reflect that in my coaching style.

You can follow Greg via his team Twitter account, @JacksonsMMA

Special thanks to Julie Kedzie for being my go to gal at Jackson's MMA.