In the world of mixed martial arts, Greg Jackson needs no introduction. The owner and operator of Jackson’s Submission Fighting and MMA training camp has become a staple in the sport, winning numerous awards for coach, trainer, and gym of the year from various MMA publications. If the accolades aren’t enough to impress you, that fact that the list of students stemming from Jackson’s tutelage is practically a who’s-who of MMA champions definitely will. Names such as Georges St. Pierre, Jon “Bones” Jones, Rashad Evans, and Shane Carwin, among many, many others should give you a sense of just what Jackson and his school is capable of.
This past weekend I got a chance to sit down and chat with Greg about the world of MMA, THQ’s contribution to the popularity of the sport, and the inevitable comparisons to the world of professional wrestling. Check out what he had to say:
What are you thoughts on the explosion of the sport of MMA and the popularity of UFC over the past couple of years?
Well I think its really cool, mostly because I do it for a living, at least training anyway. I think it’s great! I think that people are always interested in the bottom line and usually the bottom line is who can beat up the other guy, which is kind of continuing that great (MMA) tradition.
I remember when the UFC made its debut back in the 1990's, it got a bad public label of being “barbaric” and too violent. It was pretty much shunned by the public; there were even states and venues that banned the events. What do you think has changed with the sport that has helped it become more accepted?
A lot has changed. We have rules, we have weight classes, and we have structure. At the beginning it was basically whoever would fight whoever and that was it. Now it’s an actual sport and I think that once we put rules together, got safety equipment, and got commissions to make sure the fighters were going to be checked out before and after fights, and like I said weight divisions were a big deal, I think that made it into a legitimate sport. Now people are really excited and the fights are usually very exciting. When you have the element of a “safe sport” and it’s exciting, why wouldn’t people want to watch it?
What is it about the UFC that has taken it a step above all of the other promotions in the MMA world; it has out lasted PRIDE who it took over, it is bigger than Strikeforce, especially here in the States, what is it that has made it more popular than any of the others?
I think that the popularity of the UFC is directly attributed to Dana White. He understands what the fans want to see. He is huge on making sure the people really get into the fighters’ lives. He came up with the Ultimate Fighter T.V. show and was able to show what it takes to be a great fighter and made sure that fans were taken care of all along the way. He might not be popular in some books but to those of us that were training and doing MMA long before the UFC was popular, he is a hero.
Do you think that THQ’s work in the recent UFC video game series has helped draw in people to the sport who might not have been naturally attracted otherwise?
THQ doing this video game is like a gateway drug to me. You get in there and you are like “oh, maybe I’ll try this fighting game” and all of sudden you are learning these moves, doing all these techniques and getting to know the fighters so that when you actually watch the UFC, which it is going to get you to watch in the first place to see what it is about, you are already educated. “I know this fighter, he likes to do these things, and I know what he is trying to do there, he is trying to pass the guard.” It’s huge because it is pulling in this entirely new demographic and its educating fans, both new and those who might have been around for while. Now they know what they are looking at so for me, that THQ is doing this is so important for our sport.
What has impressed you the most with what THQ has done with UFC Undisputed 3?
I think that the current game’s real strength is it’s strategical maneuvering. It allows you to play so strategically using fakes and feints, messing with people’s, what we call “utilities”, which is their personal preferences. So, if you know that a guy is always going to punch you can get ready for the shot. I think that is the most realistic thing about this game is that you can train your guy just like a fighter in that you can bring up their stats using certain exercises that, in game, you also have the ability to be very strategic with as well.
We see a lot of professional wrestlers trying to make the transition to the MMA world now days. People such as Brock Lesnar, Bobbly Lashley, and Dave Batista have tried to make the transition but the levels of success have varied. What made their stories so different, why has Brock been so much more successful than any of the others?
What you have to remember about Lesnar is that he was an actual wrestler. He was a Division 1 champion so when he came to it... and I am not putting down pro-wrestling at all as I actually have a huge admiration for pro wrestlers as I think the ability to do what they do to their bodies week after week and all of the athletics, flipping, and jumping, but it’s not fighting. Wrestling is very close to fighting. It gives you that mental toughness that you need and the explosiveness, and being able to actually dominate someone in a real competition. I think that was a big difference.
Is there anyone else that you can think of in the professional wrestling world that could make just as successful of a transition as Brock?
I think anybody can! It’s all about the right training, coming in with a good attitude... but they are all great athletes. If they are able to deal with being punched in the face, than absolutely they can do it.
I want to personally thank Greg for taking the time to sit down and speak with me as well as THQ for providing airfare and lodging.