ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Don’t think Batman and Robin. Think Stockton and Malone, or a slightly less handsome Newman and Redford.
While their personal styles and professional areas of expertise may be different, Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn are equals in every way.
Together, at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA, the two men have formed one of the most formidable coaching teams in the sport. Jackson specializes in the ground game, Winkeljohn in standup – though it would be a mistake to think Winkeljohn knows nothing about the ground or Jackson nothing about standup.
Though the two men have known each other for some 20 years, not until 2007 did Winkeljohn’s name become officially linked with Jackson’s. Thus, perhaps for convenience as much as anything, many people still refer to their joint enterprise as “Jackson’s MMA.” Jackson has the longer history in the sport, is the better known of the two and gets both more praise and more brickbats.
But the MMA being practiced at their gym on Acoma SE is a team effort.
Their approaches to training are as different as ground and standup. Yet, like standup and ground in a well-rounded fighter, they function smoothly.
“They’re two different ends of the stick,” says Ricky Kottenstette, Jackson-Winkeljohn’s general manager. “Greg is just kind of like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ He’s real smooth, laid-back, not a lot bothers him. Winkeljohn, he’s just straightforward.
“It works. When one is passive, the other one can step in and be active.”
There’s a resultant push-me, pull-you effect, says Stephanie Jackson, Greg’s wife, that both teaches and motivates.
“They’re fabulous partners together,” she says. “And they’re different.
“Greg is a motivator in a more one-on-one, ‘what do you need?’ kind of way. Some fighters need a father figure. Some fighters need a hard-ass. … It depends on what works for (fighters) to bring out their best performance.”
Some of that good cop-bad cop thing is scripted, Winkeljohn says. Most of it is simply a byproduct of the two men’s personalities.
“A lot of it is who we are,” Winkejohn says. “A little bit’s on purpose. We definitely do that in cornering, because I think people need to hear both sides of it.”
In the gym, Winkeljohn says, “Greg gets people to believe in themselves and build that confidence in themselves. Now that we’re as successful as we are, it works even better because people believe what he says and because he’s gotten proven results.
“I’m the guy that basically says, ‘Look, if you do that again, you’re gonna get knocked out. So don’t do that; do this instead and you’ll win the fight.'”
Life at the gym and in the corner, Jackson says, is far better for Winkeljohn’s presence. In addition, Winkeljohn has taken over some of the business aspects of the gym that Jackson can do without.
“Winkeljohn,” Jackson says, “has saved my life in so many ways, so many times, I can’t even tell you.”
Jackson refers to Winkeljohn as “Big Brother,” Winkeljohn to Jackson as “Little Brother.”
Relatively speaking, they make a winning team.