Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn have a reputation for training some of the world’s best mixed-martial arts fighters.
Now they’re working on a new facility that better suits their level of success.
The Albuquerque coaches plan to relocate their Jackson/Wink gym to East Downtown from Southeast Albuquerque early next year. It’s part of a $3 million-plus project to turn a former federal office building into an expanded, state-of-the-art MMA training facility with apartments, dormitories and space for office and retail tenants.
Winkeljohn said he will close this month on the purchase of a vacant building at Broadway and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, a 32,000-square-foot facility previously used by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He’s buying it as part of a newly created company, M H Win LLC, that includes himself, wife Heather and a few small investors.
The Jackson/Wink gym will serve as the anchor tenant, but the planned remodel will also create 10,000 square feet of apartments and dormitories – enough, Winkeljohn estimates, to accommodate as many as 40 fighters – plus office space and 4,800 square feet of retail space he wants to fill with restaurants or other merchants that would appeal both to the athletes and the fans who come to see them.
“We’re trying to take the thing to the next level, so our fighters have a much better environment (and) so they can be better at what they do,” Winkeljohn said.
Jackson said the time for an upgrade had come.
“We’ve definitely outgrown the place we have now,” he said. “It’s time to move on. We owe it to our fighters to have a facility you can really be proud of and that has all the things that you need in it.”
Jackson/Wink – last known as Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA – currently occupies an inconspicuous, 6,500-square-foot building a few blocks south of the Central/San Mateo intersection.
About 100 men and women train at Jackson/Wink, including about 60 high-level professionals. Even with as few as 25 of them on the mats sparring and stretching at the same time, it can look a little cramped.
“We’re running into each other all the time around here,” fighter Holly Holm said before a recent training session.
Once a mechanic’s garage, the gym has something of a makeshift feel. Despite serving as the training base for some of MMA’s biggest stars – including UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones – Winkeljohn is the first to assert there’s nothing glamorous about the place. “It’s a dump,” he said during the Journal’s recent visit.
The gym itself gets about 4,500 square feet of the current facility. It will grow to 10,000 at its new location and include a second cage, plus facilities like locker rooms and a physical rehab area with an ice bath.
“We’re missing stuff like that (currently) – key elements that we really need to stay on the cutting edge,” Jackson said. “We’re missing that, and this new facility is going to give us that, and it’s real exciting.”
The residential component is a huge part of the new project. Phase 1 includes seven apartments and 16 dormitory beds, and the layout allows for future expansion. Winkeljohn said the apartment/dorms are critical because Jackson/Wink has a regular influx of fighters from across the country and around the world.
They come to Albuquerque for weeks-long training stints from places like Australia, Russia and Japan. They don’t stay long enough to sign a traditional apartment lease or buy a car. They need short-term housing that is convenient to both the gym and amenities like food, Winkeljohn said.
Many now camp out on the second floor of the current facility, catching shuteye on bunk beds and couches situated in close, cluttered quarters. The new location will provide more formal, private spaces.
“I just want it better for these guys,” Winkeljohn said.
The Downtown facility will also make it easier for MMA fans to see the fighters train. It will incorporate an observation area that will be open at select times.
Winkeljohn sees the presence of the fighters and their fans as a perfect magnet for retail activity. He envisions the likes of restaurants, coffee shops, brewpubs or service providers like massage therapists leasing out the building’s retail area.
“Everybody wants to be around the fighters,” he said.
Winkeljohn said the building purchase should close at the end of the month. Also a commercial contractor, Winkeljohn’s Wink Development will handle the remodel. He expects the new facility to debut by March.
Jackson said the project gives Jackson/Wink a facility more akin to the other major MMA training gyms around the world.
“They all have much larger facilities than we do,” he said. “We’re kind of the smallest. Now we’re (going to be) much more comparable in facilities and access to resources than we were before.
“We’ve done what we’ve done kind of on a shoestring, and now we’re able to take that next step and it’s really great.”