Donald Cerrone has parted ways with longtime gym Jackson-Wink MMA ahead of his UFC Fight Night 139 showdown with Mike Perry, and to hear him tell it, it wasn’t on the best of terms.
The two fighters nearly crossed paths at UFC 226, when Perry’s original opponent, Yancy Medeiros, pulled out of the fight due to a broken rib. Both Cerrone and Perry were willing to square off then, despite Perry having recently relocated to Jackson-Wink MMA to train. Ultimately, Paul Felder stepped in and lost to Perry at UFC 226. With that, “Cowboy” assumed the time for that fight had passed.
Cerrone was initially in the process of returning to the lightweight division when UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby informed him that Perry had called him out. As he so often does, Cerrone accepted without hesitation. However, he did so with the understanding that his team at Jackson-Wink would back him instead of Perry.
That didn’t turn out to be the case.
“I have nothing against Perry. This has nothing to do with him,” Cerrone said on Joe Rogan’s “JRE MMA Show” on Wednesday. “But I went to talk to Greg [Jackson] and [Mike Winkeljohn] and say, ‘Hey, this guy is brand new to the gym. He’s only been here one camp, a couple of months. I don’t think that it’s OK for him to chime in and call me out. That’s not right. So if he is doing that, I don’t think we should allow him to train here for this fight.’
“F--king Winkeljohn tells me, ‘I thought you called him out.’ He’s just a s--t ass and lies to your face. To me he was like, ‘No problem, I’ll clear it up and we won’t have any issues.’ The next day he calls me on the phone and goes, ‘You know what, I thought about it. If we don’t have Perry, then I don’t get paid. I need to get paid for this fight. You just pay Greg; I don’t make any money for the gym. So we’re just gonna go with him.’ So he basically tells me I’m no longer welcome in the gym.’”
The way the situation was handled particularly irked Cerrone, who has been training at the Albuquerque, N.M.-based camp prior to becoming a star in the now-defunct World Extreme Cagefighting organization.
“[Winkeljohn] said, ‘The team had a meeting.’ Bulls—t. I talked to everybody -- there was no meeting. To me it’s like the loyalty of Wink taking over the gym. It’s just s--t. It turned into a puppy mill. It’s all about money now. It’s not the old Jackson-Wink.”
In late 2015 Jackson-Wink MMA relocated from a smaller location in southeast Albuquerque to the former DEA building in the city’s downtown. With the larger facility came dorm rooms, and the gym began to accommodate more fighters in order to fill that space. Cerrone fondly remembers what it was like at the old location when he first journeyed to the Duke City to help Leonard Garcia prepare to face Roger Huerta at UFC 69.
“First day I walked in the gym at Jackson’s and [there was] Rashad [Evans], Keith [Jardine], [Georges] St. Pierre, Joe Stevenson, the list goes on and on,” Cerrone said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is what a real gym is like?’ They accepted me and I was in the family. I owned a house in Denver, I called my grandma and said, ‘I’m never going home, I’m staying here.’ I literally never went home.”
Cerrone has long been a Jackson advocate, even as the environment at his training home began to change.
“He’s such a knowledgeable, awesome dude. To see where the gym was, to where the gym is now – it’s heartbreaking to me,” Cerrone said. “You want to talk about loyalty, which is the biggest thing in this conversation right now, how they picked someone over me. I stuck by Greg even when the gym started going down. When Winkeljohn merged over, all the big pros left. It turned into a puppy mill.
“Back when Greg had it and it was its own school, [anyone] couldn’t turn up to a pro class. Some guy couldn’t just come here and knock on your door. Next thing you know he has shin pads on and he’s sparring. At the new gym, I swear bums come in off the street and will put stuff on and fight. That’s a true story. Random bums off the street.”
Cerrone, of course, owns the BMF Ranch in Edgewood, N.M., about an hour drive from Albuquerque. That spot includes a full training facility of its own. Cerrone said that Jackson didn’t necessarily stand up for him when it came time to make a decision on Perry, and that was disappointing.
“With Greg, his name is on that building. Your name is first,” Cerrone said. “When it came time to pick the decision and they said they wanted to go with Perry, why didn’t you stand up? Because Greg’s still with me. He said, ‘I’ll just come to the Ranch and we’ll sort this out.’ What the f--k are you talking about? I can’t come to the Jackson-Wink gym, but you’re gonna back door and come to my f--king house and you’re gonna train to fight me while Perry’s there at the gym.”
Cerrone added that Jackson has taken on a lesser role since the gym changed locations.
“[Greg’s] so out of the loop. Winkeljohn runs the entire thing,” he said. “He kind of stepped back for a couple years, kind of started doing other things. He got burned out, I guess. Which is why I created the BMF Ranch. I needed somewhere to go.”
Cerrone admits that he’s never worked with Winkeljohn since coming to Albuquerque, which is why he doesn’t share any of his fight purses with the striking coach. In that sense, the style of the fighter and the coach never meshed. And they definitely don’t see eye to eye now, which should make the fight between Cerrone and Perry all the more interesting.
“I only pay Greg, for the entire time I was there,” Cerrone said. “I don’t like Winkeljohn’s style, I don’t like the way he holds mitts, I don’t like the way he trains people. It’s the same thing [for everyone]. Cookie cutter, everything exactly the same. It never changes. I don’t understand how you could coach at one time one of the greatest gyms on the planet and don’t ever evolve, don’t change a class. To me, he just drove that place into the ground.”