ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Greg Jackson is sitting this one out, and under the circumstances he doesn’t mind at all.
There’s just one problem.
If Carlos Condit beats Georges St-Pierre tonight in Montreal, Jackson won’t know whether to be happy or sad.
And if St-Pierre wins? Ditto.
Jackson, the renowned Albuquerque mixed-martial arts coach, works with both of the main event combatants in UFC 154 — Albuquerque’s Condit (28-5) and Montreal’s St-Pierre (22-2), who will fight at the Bell Centre for the UFC welterweight title. But he will work with neither tonight, won’t be in the building, might not even watch it on pay-per-view. When the St-Pierre-Condit match was made, Jackson readily agreed to step aside.
“Because I love both of those guys so much, it was a no-brainer,” he says. “I hope they have a great fight. I hope they get ‘Fight of the Night’ and make tons of money and the fans love it.”
Jackson won’t say he’s rooting for a draw — nobody wants that — but makes it clear he’s still uncomfortable with Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA teammates fighting each other.
Jackson long had held that teammates don’t fight teammates, and that philosophy became an unwritten Jackson-Winkeljohn rule.
In March 2011, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones started a major conflagration by saying he’d be willing to fight Jackson-Winkeljohn teammate Rashad Evans, who took grave offense, and with harsh words for both Jones and Jackson, took his talents to another gym.
For Jackson, the situation was beyond uncomfortable. Before Jones and Evans finally met in the octagon in April, Jackson initially decided not to work with either fighter. Later, because Evans was no longer associated with him, he reconsidered and was in Jones’ corner for his victory in Atlanta.
If the Jones-Evans fight caused a ruckus, it also established a precedent. When the stakes are high enough, teammates do fight teammates.
“The protocols we put in place (since Jones-Evans), and everybody kind of understanding what that’s about, has really kind of taken a lot of that awkwardness away,” Jackson says. “I still don’t like it; that’s why I’m not gonna be there or anything. It’s not something I enjoy, but it’s manageable now.”
It helps that Condit and St-Pierre, unlike Jones and Evans, have never trained together and never developed a personal relationship. In the buildup to tonight’s fight, there has been great mutual respect and no trash talk.
In fact, Jackson was hard-pressed to recall whether Condit and St-Pierre even have been in the Jackson-Winkeljohn gym at the same time. In working with St-Pierre, Jackson often travels to Canada.
“He’s the last of that generation that I travel for,” Jackson says. “He’s my guy.”
Jackson makes it clear that Condit is his guy, too.
That goes for the fighters, as well. During a recent teleconference, each made it clear his relationship with Jackson is unaffected by tonight’s fight.
“Of course,” St-Pierre said, when asked whether he would resume working with Jackson after the Condit fight. “Nothing is changing. (Jackson’s absence) is just for this fight … so, no problem.”
Condit, meanwhile, saw Jackson on almost a daily basis during his training in Albuquerque — even though Jackson wasn’t involved in his preparation.
“I still interact with Greg,” Condit said during the teleconference. “He’s still at the gym, so it’s not like we’re not on speaking terms or anything.”
If a teammate beats a teammate, do they remain teammates?
Jackson sees no problem. “It’s just business,” he says.
Yet, for himself, Jackson can’t say the same of tonight’s showdown in Montreal.
“It’s personal for me,” he says. “Both of those guys, I have such a history with.
“And, yeah, I don’t want to be there.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal