Dana White has spewed venom Greg Jackson’s way before, but on Thursday the UFC boss’s anger toward the respected trainer reached unprecedented levels following the cancellation of UFC 151.
The event was scrapped when light heavyweight champion -- and Jackson’s MMA member -- Jon Jones turned down a short-notice bout with Chael Sonnen after original challenger Dan Henderson was forced to withdraw from the UFC 151 main event due to a knee injury. With no suitable headliner, White elected to pull the plug on the card altogether, blaming Jackson for advising “Bones” to refuse the matchup with Sonnen.
“When [Jones and I] talked, he said, ‘I have to sit down and talk to my coaches. His coach, Greg Jackson, says, ‘There’s no way you take this fight on eight days’ notice. It would be the biggest mistake of your entire career,’” White said during Thursday’s media conference call. “Wow. Chael Sonnen is a 185-pounder trying to move up to 205 [pounds] who hasn’t trained a day for this fight, yet he says he’ll fly [to Las Vegas] tonight to fight the supposed pound-for-pound third-best fighter in the world. I mean, how much faith do you have in your champion, your guy?”
White was far from done.
“I literally just bumped into Greg Jackson the other day and was kind of joking about some of the things I’ve said [in the past],” White said. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll go on record and say it. This guy is a f---ing sport killer. This guy is from another planet. And I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”
Despite drawing the ire of arguably the most powerful figure in mixed martial arts today, Jackson stands firmly by the advice he gave to his fighter. He also disputes a few of the details in White’s rant, namely the amount of time Jones would have had to prepare as well as Sonnen’s readiness for a light heavyweight return.
“When it was brought to me, it was a question of: ‘Do you think we should fight Chael Sonnen on basically three days’ notice?’” Jackson said during an interview on “The Jordan Breen Show” on the Sherdog.com Radio Network. “The fight week doesn’t count. It’s not eight days’ notice. You’re not training and preparing for somebody on that week. You’re cutting weight, dealing with the media and basically not training at all. That was the question that was asked. Should we fight somebody at Sonnen’s level with three days’ notice? And I, as a trainer, thought absolutely not. I didn’t know that an entire card was in the balance or anything like that. [Jones] came to me and asked me questions. I advised him, and I stand by that.
“It was actually a really smart move on Sonnen’s part,” Jackson continued. “He would bypass the entire division and get a title shot immediately. And again, let’s be clear. We all know Sonnen is a very sharp guy. He would not just step off the couch and into a fight. He’s been training with Dan [Henderson]. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
While Jackson and White both work in the same business, the trainer acknowledges that his goals within the sport are different than a promoter whose job is to sell fights. That said, Jackson is still perplexed by many of White’s negative comments.
“I guess it’s more confusing than anything. I was asked an opinion. I gave it. I gave my advice. I still think that’s a valid opinion,” Jackson said. “I’m not a promoter, so I don’t have to deal with the things he deals with. He comes at it from [the perspective that] he’s got people to take care of, [and] he’s got money to [make]. I come at it from [the perspective that] I want my guys to win as quickly as possible, and I want them to be smart in there. I guess the conflict comes there -- we just have different personality types. I’m no good at talking bad about people. I never really have been. I’m not a great verbal judo guy at all.”
If White had his way, nobody -- whether it be fighters or media -- would be asking Jackson for his opinion on anything anytime soon.
“I don’t give a s--t what Greg Jackson thinks. The guy is a f---ing weirdo man,” White said. “Are you kidding me? Saying that if he takes the fight with Chael Sonnen that it would be the biggest mistake of his entire career, because he’s not ready for that guy? Greg Jackson should never be interviewed by anybody ever again except for a psychiatrist.”
On Sept. 22, Jackson will help corner Jones in his rematch with Lyoto Machida at UFC 152. It’s a challenge the trainer is already beginning to embrace, in part because of the success Machida had against his charge in the opening round of their initial meeting at UFC 140. In the meantime, Jackson still manages to maintain a sense of humor in spite of the Thursday’s hectic events.
“I’m not sure if I would need to be committed,” he quipped. “Surely there are those people in the world who would think I need to be committed, and maybe they’re not wrong.”