Tonight, UFC 191 will kick off in Las Vegas and brings forth a great card loaded with intriguing match-ups and a flyweight title fight between the champion, Demetrious Johnson and the Number 1 contender, John Dodson. The co-main event features a clash of the heavyweight titans when Andrei Arlovski and Frank Mir finally meet up in the Octagon. These two fights are special because each one has an athlete that calls Jackson-Wink MMA their training home.
Both Arlovski and Dodson are trained by the cerebral Greg Jackson, whose sterling reputation is well-known in the community. Recently, the Three Amigos Podcast interviewed Jackson, who discussed the plentiful fights his team will be competing in, how he manages to keep everything running smoothly with such a packed house, and more. This particular feature focuses on Andrei Arlovski and the pressure of being responsible for winning fight plans and the dedication with which he undertakes that task.
TAP: Recently Frank Mir said he respected and admired Andrei's career turnaround, but the most interesting part of the interview was this comment:
"Here's the thing I admire most: He was so willing to re-learn everything,"
Do you find that he actually had to re-learn everything or was it revisiting things he already had in the toolbox and fine tuning them?
Greg Jackson: A little bit of both. This is a brutal sport, and not just the fighting aspect of it, but very much in the arms race escalation. That means if you're not constantly trying to improve; your ground game, your wrestling game, boxing, ki8ckboxing...everything, you get left behind. You'll see people will get to a point, and that's where they stay. That's where their line is. They don't continue to evolve.
I think that's where Andrei was. He had gotten to a point where he wasn't evolving. Certainly we have learned new things, certainly we have revisited and fine-tuned things he used to do well and brought those up to speed, but we just got him back on the treadmill, so to speak, of that escalating arms race where you're constantly having to improve yourself and adapt to what other people are doing. You have to come up with new techniques and ideas, so if you're not doing that actively, you will be left behind. That's where he was and now he's not.
*UFC 191 interview: Greg Jackson on Johnson vs. Dodson 2, impending IV ban*
TAP: Andrei has been with you for about 3 years now, plenty long enough for you to observe and develop an opinion, so what do you find Andrei's greatest attribute to be?
Greg Jackson: He's just a great guy and one of my best friends, but I love his toughness most of all. He'll do whatever it takes. He'll grind. If I told him to jump off a cliff at three in the morning, he'll be there doing it. He's a total samurai and I respect that. He's of the mindset that if this is what we have to do to win, then that's what we have to do. He never complains, never bitches and moans. He just gets in there and does it. Andrei's a guy you wouldn't mind kicking down a door with, at all.
TAP: Your athletes all seem to implicitly trust you. Does that add any pressure on your already full plate? If one of your people loses, do you wonder if they're thinking, ‘Well, maybe Greg gave me the wrong information or didn't coach me to my best benefit?'
Greg Jackson: I'm not so much worried that they're upset, it's more that I'm upset that I've done that. I worry that I gave them the wrong plan; you always worry about those kind of things. There's always a lot of pressure, but that's my job. I have to figure out ways to win, to beat these amazing athletes.
Your people put their trust in you, so you have to take your job very seriously. You can't be lackadaisical and burnout is the biggest problem. If you get complacent, you're doing a huge disservice to the person that's in there fighting for their pride, a lot of money and everybody is judging them. It's a lot of pressure on them, too, so you can't let them down.
That's a big deal in my life, trying not to let my friends down. I'm human, I make mistakes. I don't always call the right plan. I mean, it's thousands of fights at this point, and I have made mistakes, but I try to learn from them, and I take that responsibility seriously.
Follow our Twitter accounts: Stephie Haynes, Three Amigos Podcast, Iain Kidd and Mookie Alexander. The show is available right here or via the embedded player below. The interview starts at the 37:10 mark of the audio.