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MMAFightline Exclusive: Greg Jackson Talks Strategy, Brock Lesnar And More On The Eve Of UFC 81

Greg Jackson is one of the best MMA trainers and fight strategists in the world. He currently trains or has trained big name fighters such as; Georges St. Pierre, Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans, Diego Sanchez, Nate Marquardt among many others. He is a renowned corner man and is known within UFC circles as a brilliant tactician; as evidenced recently by the clever game plans he put together for Keith Jardine against Chuck Liddell and Georges St. Pierre against Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes.

Jackson was kind enough to sit down exclusively with for a two part interview before he takes another in his stable of talented fighters, Nate Marquardt, into battle against highly regarded veteran Jeremy Horn at UFC 81: Breaking Point. In part one, Greg talks about that fight as well as how he breaks down fighters and comes up with strategies to help his fighters. He also goes in depth about Brock Lesnar and touches on his personal life.

In part II, he talks about Dana White and gives his list of top UFC fighters for each division. You’ve been highly successful as a big time MMA trainer. What is the philosophy behind your brand of MMA?

Greg Jackson: Well I guess my philosophy with MMA…boy that’s a tough question. There are so many different facets to it. I guess I love it, and the part I love is the strategy and the preparation; the process of it. The winnings really cool and I really like to win, but the winnings more for the fighters. Those are the guys getting the punches thrown at them and taking the risk. So I get really excited when my guys win for probably about for or five minutes and then I want to do it again. I like the process of getting them ready for it, I like figuring out the opponent, figuring out how my guy can get better, figuring out how to use our strengths to capitalize on their weaknesses. That’s the part I really find fun in the sport of mixed martial arts. Me being in martial arts myself that’s the part I enjoy about competitive mixed martial arts. It’s kind of a different take on it, but I guess my philosophy is just enjoying that part of it. Enjoying what I do in the strategy realm of it. I’m real lucky to be able to do that for a living because most people don’t get to do their art for a living and in that sense I’m one of the lucky ones. I just love it. It’s my art. You’ve obviously been highly successful in coming up with successful game plans for your fighters to take into the ring with them. Can you take us through the process of breaking down fighters and coming up with a game plan?

Greg Jackson: You have to just understand fighting. And if you understand what’s going on both psychologically and physically in the fight then you can break those down. You can see that every fighter has what I like to call a comfort zone. So your job is to identify that comfort zone and take your opponent out of it. But that’s the big picture and it’s gets micro, into little things like in this position their comfortable here, from here he likes to do that, so you kind of try to take your opponent apart and then you have to know your guy. It’s the old Sun Tzu axiom; you have to know yourself and know your enemy. You know both of those then you have a great chance of victory. You have to know what your guys capable of…is he capable of hanging on the ground with this person? Is he capable of hanging with the guys kickboxing? So you know to me it’s this beautiful process were it really challenges me to be creative. It challenges me to look deep inside people and see if I’m right. And I love when the plan goes really, really well. It’s kind of like painting a great picture and you look back at it and go, wow! Of course the athletes are the ones doing it, but I had a part in that picture and that’s really cool to me. So the process of breaking down is basically very, very old. It goes back to 5000 B.C. or something like that. I can’t remember when Sun Tzu was writing, but he said to know yourself and know your enemy and he couldn’t have been more right. What are some of the most memorable fights that you’ve been involved with that you felt really good about how your game plan worked out.

Greg Jackson: That’s a real hard one, because I don’t want to take all the credit. There are a lot of people that help come up with the plans. I’m not a guy that like, knows it all. There are a lot of other coaches that we work with that say ‘hey when he does this you should do that’ so I get a lot of contributions from other areas too. But, you know the last couple fights have been so good. And I’ve been doing it for so long and trained so many guys, I’ve been lucky enough to train so many good athletes.

These last couple against Chuck Liddell, Koscheck and Matt Hughes…I get a real thrill, just a feeling like ‘Wow, I helped them. I did my art.” I get that feeling from those last few fights. But there’s been so many, not that I’m a guy that says I’ve been there done that. I still have a ton to learn but I’ve been in so many corners that I can’t tell you one that’s stood out. The first time when Rashad beat Jason Lambert, got in the mount and was able to beat Jason Lambert that was a really good night for him; more so for Rashad to finish the fight which he did. That’s a night that stood out. I jumped the the cage on that one and got fined $100 dollars [laughs]. There are moments like that, but I’m still so young in the coaching game. I’m only 34 years old so I feel that I have a lot to expand and a lot to learn. But those are some moments that stood out. Some of Nate Marquardt’s fights, some of his King of Pancreas title defenses and some of his UFC fights have really stood out. What about your strategy for Kieth Jardine against Chuck Liddell?

Greg Jackson: We worked really hard on that one and we were lucky that Chuck fought the same way over and over and we were able to pick up on it because Chuck is such an amazing fighter. I mean he showed it again against Wanderlei. I really have the utmost respect for that guy, he’s amazing and we were lucky to come away with the win that night. You drew Jeremy Horn as a replacement for Leitas against Nate Marquardt at UFC 81. How do you see the fight going?

Greg Jackson: Horn is an amazing fighter and he’s fought everyone. The thing about Horn is that he’s always dangerous. We’re gonna take him very seriously. You gotta remember when he fought Forrest way back in the day, Forrest was doing really well and then he got caught with a head kick and that was the end of that. He caught Chonan in an arm bar. I mean, the guy is real dangerous. But Nate Marquardt is a very talented, amazing fighter. The guy is just incredible. People haven’t really seen it; I mean, sometimes you see flashes of it but he’s one of the most incredible fighters on the planet and hopefully we’ll get another crack at Silva…Silva’s such an amazing fighter. I can’t wait to take what we learned from the last fight and hopefully get another shot at it. Everyone’s beatable. And that’s not being disrespectful towards him. I have nothing but the utmost admiration for the guy, but there’s always a way to beat somebody. It’s just a matter of if you can do it or if you can’t.

The UFC’s gotten its share of negative publicity lately and Dana White in particular. What are your impressions of Dana White?

Greg Jackson: I actually like the guy. He’s been nothing but honest and straight forward with me. He’s a straight shooter. I respect him. He’s done so much for the sport of MMA, and so much for my gym by letting my guys fight in an elite organization, that I’m thankful and respectful. The great thing about being me is that I’m really not that important. You know, if I was one of those guys that was really important in the world and a really big name then you might get into conflicts or whatever but if I ever left the UFC tomorrow, people would be like ‘Greg’s not here anymore, ok whatever’ [laughs]. So I’m not important, which puts me in a beautiful position of being able to do my art. I just train my guys and do what I love and Dana’s kind enough to let us perform on that big stage. So I actually really like the guy and have a ton of respect for him. We can’t let you go without getting your thoughts on Brock Lesnar. He’s going to be fighting on the same card as Nate Marquardt at UFC 81 so you’ll get an up close and personal look at the guy. What are your impressions of him so far?

Greg Jackson: I actually haven’t checked him out in MMA at all because we haven’t fought him and that’s usually when I check out fighters. But I think it’s great that professional wrestlers are coming over to our sport. Professional wrestlers are athletes, their entertainers and so are fighters. You know, the guys do back flips! What they do is really hard on their body. It’s so hard that some of these guys get hooked on pain killers or steroids. It’s a hard life. So I actually have respect for professional wrestlers because they’re great entertainers and they put their bodies through hell. So, if Lesnar wants to see if he can prove himself in the UFC, I think that’s great. I hope he does well as long as he’s not fighting our guys. I think it’s positive if someone like that, with a name, wants to switch over to our sport. I think that tells you where our sport’s going.

Be sure to check back with us soon for part II of our conversation with world renown MMA trainer, Greg Jackson. In part II Jackson discusses how he and Georges St. Pierre are preparing for their battle with Matt Serra. Jackson also reveals why he began training in the first place and gives his thoughts on the best fighters in each division of the UFC, complete with his rankings of the top three at each weight.

Also, don’t miss our free, live coverage of UFC 81: Breaking Point as the Greg Jackson led, Nate Marquardt, takes on Jeremy Horn. Coverage begins at 10pm EST.

And for more information on Jackson and his world renowned camp, please click the following link to head over to Greg Jackson’s Submission Fighting Website.