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Jackson defends J-W gym protocols despite fighter contracting virus

Greg Jackson believes that, given the existence of the pandemic, the nature of combat sports and the population that lives and trains at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA Academy, a positive COVID-19 test among the gym’s fighters was inevitable.

He’s relieved that, thus far, there’s been only one – but acknowledges that, despite precautions taken that he calls outstanding, the first may not be the last.

Friday, it was confirmed that Jackson-Wink fighter Chris Brown tested positive for the coronavirus and was pulled from a Legacy Fighting Alliance MMA card in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Brown’s manager, Rick Guerrero of Mata Leon Sports Management, issued the following statement: “Chris Brown was removed from competing at (Friday’s) LFA 85 due to testing positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19). We are thankful that this was detected and contained by event officials.

“Chris is asymptomatic and is following all of the guidelines set in place by the medical team. We hope to get him back in the LFA Octagon soon.”

Brown, reached by phone, deferred to his manager.

Later, via text, he said, “I feel great just disappointed.”

Jackson, Jackson-Wink’s co-founder and co-head coach, said the gym was shut down Thursday upon learning of Brown’s positive test. The gym, he said, likely will reopen on Sunday after a thorough sanitization.

Greg Jackson, co-owner of Jackson Wink MMA Academy, stands above his training facility on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. . (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

“We’re disinfecting it from top to bottom,” he said. “The science says it’s not about surfaces so much as droplets, but it’s not gonna hurt anything to have it really clean.”

Everyone, he said – fighters, coaches and staff – will be required to get a negative COVID-19 test before resuming training.

Jackson said he doesn’t know how or from whom Brown acquired the virus. Unlike most Jackson-Wink fighters, he said, Brown does not live in the gym’s in-house dormitories.

Jackson-Wink fighters are required to test and retest, Jackson said. Temperatures are taken regularly.

That so many J-W fighters do live on the premises, Jackson believes, has helped the gym avoid having a positive test until now.

“Like 90 percent of them live (in the dorms), so they don’t really go out and about,” he said. “… They live there, they go downstairs, they work out, they go upstairs and eat together. So it’s much more of a closed gym, not a public gym.”

As horrific as the pandemic has been on so many levels, Jackson said, Jackson-Wink will benefit in the long run from protocols designed to combat it.

“I’m actually one of those guys that likes to take any kind of challenge and use it to our advantage,” he said. “… For us, we’re trying to help make (the gym) more efficient.”

“Pods” of five or fewer fighters working with one coach, he said, were designed to comply with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s COVID-19 orders. But they’re here to stay, he said, because they’ve been found to enhance the learning process.

“I think it’s better for the fighters and for the coaches, so there won’t be those big classes that the coaches weren’t able to focus in on,” he said. “Thirty (fighters) sparring, you watch this guy and then 20 seconds over there.

“With these super-small pods, I think from a coaching and fighting perspective it will be a lot better.”

On the Jackson-Wink website, 113 fighters are listed as on the roster. That Brown is the first J-W fighter known to have tested positive, Jackson believes, is proof that the gym’s preventative measures are working.

Yet, he said, he doesn’t expect Brown’s positive test to be the last.

“We’re gonna have another one,” he said. “It’s inevitable. You just have to understand you’re dealing with people, with human beings.

“(But) we’re gonna be able to mitigate that damage because we have a protocol in place. I’m actually pretty proud of (the protocols). … I think our numbers speak for themselves.”

Brown (5-2), a Houston native, was scheduled to face Chilean Ignacio Bahamondes (9-3) on the LFA card. A hard-luck fighter, Brown – nicknamed “Breezy,” – has had several fights fall through during his 2½-year pro career.

Never before, though, had he lost a fight to a virus.

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