With that success comes difficult decisions, however. When a gym is littered with a plethora of top-notch contenders, eventually teammates will matched against teammates. Greg Jackson has adapted to this reality by establishing protocols for when such a situation arises.
Thanks to Carlos Condit’s victory over Nick Diaz at UFC 143, those codes could be tested when welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre recovers from a torn ACL. Condit, the interim titleholder, is a New Mexico native who conducts his training camps at the renowned facility. While based at Montreal’s Tristar Gym, St. Pierre has worked extensively with Jackson over the years. When the two champs meet, Jackson will be an outsider.
“Georges is on our team; Carlos is on our team. We know what to do now,” Jackson (Pictured) said Monday during an interview with TJ De Santis on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Savage Dog Show.” “I’m stepping out. I don’t corner either guy. As long as everybody’s on our team, I don’t corner against you. Hopefully it’ll be an amazing fight and they’ll get ‘Fight of the Night.’ I’ll be eating a hamburger somewhere in a restaurant.”
The date of that bout has yet to be determined, but Jackson faces another dilemma in the near future. In a battle of former Jackson’s teammates, Jon Jones is set to defend his light heavyweight crown against Rashad Evans at UFC 145, April 21 at Phillips Arena in Atlanta. At the moment, Jackson expects to be in Jones’ corner come fight night, but things could still change between now and then.
“I’ve got to sit down and make my decision and see what I feel is best for the team. Not for me, because I have my own personal feelings where I never want to ever do that,” Jackson said. “I’m going back and forth now because I have to think about what it means to be on a team. Are we just a collection of friends that train together? For me, it’s much more than that. It means something to be on this team and it means something to have teammates.
“Rashad kind of left that. I don’t know, I’m leaning toward cornering Jon right now,” he added. “Just because, am I selfish, am I going to make this about me? Or am I gonna make this about the team? I can’t be self-centered. Even though it’s something that I don’t want to do, it might end up that way.”
Jones began training under Jackson prior to facing Matt Hamill at “The Ultimate Fighter 10” Finale in 2009 and eventually became the UFC’s youngest light heavyweight champion when he stopped Mauricio “Shogun” Rua last March. Evans arrived in New Mexico much earlier, joining the team shortly after winning Season 2 of “TUF.” He too captured a title under Jackson when he defeated Forrest Griffin for the 205-pound strap in 2008.
Evans left Jackson’s MMA for Imperial Athletics in Boca Raton, Fla., last spring, blaming both Jones and Jackson for his departure. Despite the very public harsh feelings, Jackson hopes to one day repair his relationship with Evans.
“I still consider him a friend. Right now he’s really angry, and he’s saying a lot of negative things. I don’t want much to do with that, so I’m just kind of keeping my distance, so that’s where we’re at,” he said.
It isn’t the first time a prominent fighter has left Jackson. Diego Sanchez parted ways with the camp in 2007 but returned approximately three years later. Jackson, who hasn’t spoken with Evans since he left, said that the current situation is different.
“Diego never said any negative things about me. His feelings were a little hurt, but he never attacked or anything like that. We always talked and were friends,” Jackson said. “There wasn’t much we had to repair when he came back. It was just kind of like old times again. It was just kind of like a new Diego: he was humble, and he was helping his teammates out. He was doing all the things that he hadn’t done before. It was easy.
“I certainly hope that’s salvageable with Rashad. I don’t know, those questions are more for Rashad. For me, my heart’s kind of an open book. I might have to do things that I might dislike doing for the good of the team.”