There are good coaches in MMA and there are gurus; MMA Yodas, if you will. New Mexico-based Greg Jackson is inarguably the latter. There are few camps on Earth that can stake a claim in the success of as many good fighters and champions as Greg Jackson can. Many of the worlds very best fighters have sought out his guidance and credit his training as rejuvenating their careers. One of his star pupils, UFC light heavyweight Rashad Evans, is about to engage in one of the most heated grudge matches in MMA history as he will take on bitter rival Quinton “Rampage” Jackson this weekend at UFC 114. Jackson (Greg, not “Rampage”) appeared on Sherdog Radio Network’s Beatdown program last Friday to discuss his charge’s upcoming fight.
Evans and Jackson cultivated their rivalry during their time as opposing coaches on the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show. During that time, the two frequently engaged in shouting matches and seemed ever-close to coming to blows. Jackson cannot say for sure if Evans is consumed by anger for “Rampage” or if he is trying to get into Quinton’s head.
“You would have to ask Rashad that,” Jackson said. “I do know that [trash-talking] is a tool that has been used by a lot of people before. You have Muhammad Ali calling Floyd Patterson an “Uncle Tom” before their fight for example. How fighters conduct themselves is nothing new. They have the responsibility of selling fights, but you’d have to ask Rashad how personal that is.
“I don’t think it’s that serious. I think it’s just a tool to get in [Rampage’s] head. It has nothing to do with race. Again, you have a tradition of that kind of stuff — people claiming that their opponents aren’t true Mexicans or stuff like that. It’s been going on for years. Rashad is so smart. People don’t really understand how smart this guy is. He knows better than to get emotional or heated about it. I think he’s going to be all business at fight time. I’m not worried at all about him getting drawn in and trying to knock Rampage out in 15 seconds. He’s a real sharp and careful guy.”
Evans and “Rampage” have been the subject of the UFC’s now-standard Primetime series, which serves to hype the fight and give a glimpse into the fighters’ lives during the lead up to their bouts. Jackson was asked if he and his team, who are famous for constructing opponent-specific game plans, have learned anything about “Rampage” by watching the shows themselves.
“You [watch] it just to see what they are working on,” Jackson said. “Of course, it’s edited so you can’t get a lot, but you can see the timing and the type of training that’s going on. You’re trying to use any kind of resource you can.
“We’re very careful about it though. The cameramen know when to film and when not to film. We can say, ‘Listen, this is game plan stuff’ and they know to walk away. Usually it’s pretty straightforward — most of these guys are really good. They’re looking for more of the drama for the most part. They aren’t going to give all of your secrets away and then let you get your butt kicked in the fight. That’s just not going to happen.”
The Evans-“Rampage” fight was originally scheduled to go down shortly after the conclusion of The Ultimate Fighter but “Rampage” chose to pursue an acting role in The A-Team movie remake; putting a halt to the bout and, in conjunction with a falling out with UFC President Dana White and a declared retirement from MMA, have kept “Rampage” out of action since UFC 96. Although ring rust is a very real and oft-demonstrated thing, Jackson says that he and his team are not expecting “Rampage” to be anything other than at his best.
“You can’t go in thinking about that. It’s pointless,” Jackson said about “Rampage’s” hiatus. “If he’s not the best ‘Rampage’ ever, that will make our strategy that much better. If he’s ‘Rampage’ as usual, then it’ll be business as usual. As soon as you can go in there and say, ‘Oh, ‘Rampage’ had a year off,’ you get yourself in trouble. I think we’re going to run into the best ‘Rampage’ we’ve ever seen and I hope that’s the case, because we have the best Rashad anyone has ever seen.
“We want to make sure that we’ve addressed all of the contingencies that can happen. ‘Rampage’ is a powerful striker. He’s a pretty good wrestler. He’s a savvy veteran who knows when to relax a bit and then come right back. I have a lot of respect for him. However, I’m pretty confident in Rashad’s kickboxing ability. ‘Rampage’ is an excellent boxer, it’s true, but Rashad is good as well and I’m always going to bet on my guy.”
You can see for yourself if Jackson’s tutelage and confidence in his fighter will contribute to a win for Evans. Evans and “Rampage” will square off this Saturday at UFC 114 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The fight will air live on pay-per-view and we will provide live coverage of the event here at FightLine.com.