11 Questions for Greg Jackson

By Greg Savage Apr 29, 2009
He heads arguably the world’s premier mixed martial arts camp and trains some of the sport’s most accomplished fighters, from UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans to UFC welterweight titleholder Georges St. Pierre.

Former middleweight King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt and light heavyweight contender Keith Jardine also call Greg Jackson’s Albuquerque, N.M.-based academy home. In short, it has become a haven for top-flight MMA talent. Jackson stands at the center of it all.

In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, he discusses his influences, experiences away from the cage and the fighters who succeed outside of his umbrella.

Sherdog: If you had one principle by which to live your life, what would it be?
Jackson: I really want to fulfill my potential. I really think that encompasses it. To me, everything is arbitrary -- what you put meaning into has meaning -- and, so, this is what I put meaning into, this is what I have decided to make my life; it is the pursuit of making myself the absolute best trainer I can be, to be the best martial artist I can be. That, to me, is what I live my life by, just trying to fulfill my potential.

Sherdog: You have traveled the world for your profession. Of the places you have visited, what was your favorite?
Jackson: What was really, really cool to experience was Egypt. One of my students is from Egypt, Ali [Ibrahim], so I went and spent like nine days out there, and it was an amazing experience staying with his family. I found there were two Egypts, and I am sure this is the same everywhere you go, right? But in Egypt, it is really pronounced, I think because it’s Third World. You had this tourist Egypt, and then there was the Egypt I experienced, which is like walking around, taking cabs everywhere, taking these slow trains, dodging the donkey carts and going and bargaining with all these guys at the Pyramids. Ali took me to where he grew up, and the people are just so amazing in Egypt. They’re so friendly, and when you are in the ghetto in Egypt, there was a dignity to their poverty; it was really cool. I really respected them. And seeing something as stupid old as the Pyramids was humbling. Then you get to see Ramses II … you study his battles, and then there is the dude. There are these rock statues that have been standing for 3,000 years, and then there is the mummy, like his hair is still on his head. It was amazing.

Sherdog: What is the most memorable thing you have gotten to do because of your status in the fight game?
Jackson: I would have to say the highlight would be hanging out with Steve Irwin and his family for the years I got to spend with them, and, right before he passed, getting to wrestle crocs on the Kennedy River [in Northern Australia]. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to wrestle a dinosaur. As a kid, you don’t have any real sense. You can’t wrestle a dinosaur -- he would bite your head off -- but it was always in my mind, and there I am trying to help these animals, wrestling them and figuring out ways to pin them down. I would have to say that was, aside from my wife and kids, the best experience mixed martial arts has given me.

Sherdog: What is your favorite book, something that really influenced you?
Jackson: I don’t know if I have one favorite; that is a tough one. I have a group of favorites, but if you are going to pin me down on one, I will have to say the book that has influenced me the most is “The Book of Five Rings.” I can’t overstate [Miyamoto] Mushashi’s influence on me and the way I look at the inner-connectedness of the world through the eyes of a martial artist.

Sherdog: What do you do to decompress, and aside from mixed martial arts, what interests do you have?
Jackson: Well, aside from spending time with my wife and kids -- which recharges my batteries -- I am a huge ghost town nerd. In New Mexico, especially, but all around the western part of the [United] States, there are these old towns that are just abandoned. I like to track them down, research them. I go to the University of New Mexico, I go find the old maps, find the information and then you just drive and you go in the middle of the desert and you try to find these old towns. It’s surreal. You’ll be driving through, there is nothing there, then all of a sudden, boom, and there is this giant town just sitting there like they left it yesterday. There really are so many cool things about it. I really enjoy the research. I enjoy finding out about the history, and I enjoy the experience of trying to hunt them down.

Sherdog: Who is the best MMA fighter not under your tutelage?
Jackson: I honestly really think it shifts around, but I really like Anderson Silva’s creativity. I am going to go with him outside of my guys because of his last fight. I loved [his fight with Thales Leites at UFC 97]. Everyone hated it and thought it was boring stuff. I saw him reach down and punch a guy in the thigh. I love that. It’s legit. To me, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s cool.’ The side kicking, the cross kicking, doing all that good stuff … I mean maybe he didn’t commit to this position or that position, but I loved that fight; I thought it was so creative and interesting what he was doing. I really like Anderson, and, hopefully, Nate [Marquardt] will end up fighting him again because I am really looking forward to the challenge of getting after him again.

Sherdog: What is the most important trait a fighter can have?
Jackson: The most important trait has to be a positive mental attitude through both success and the adversity of failure.

Sherdog: What style fighters do you like to watch?
Jackson: I like the unorthodox fighters, I really do. I like the [Lyoto] Machidas, I like the Andersons. I like watching B.J. Penn fight. When he is fighting at [lightweight], he is great. Outside of my guys, those are the kind of fighters I like -- the guys who are very creative and do all kinds of cool things. I also like, like any other fan, the good heart and fire fights. Guys like Chris Lytle who are going to go in there and give it their all and go for it, I really enjoy that, too.

Sherdog: Do you get to watch any television and if so what do you watch?
Jackson: I have this deal with my wife. She usually just kicks me out of the living room when she is watching her shows because I can’t just sit there and watch some of those things without making snide remarks. So, generally, I don’t just not watch TV. I regularly get booted from my own living room. When I do get a chance to watch, I love Nova, 100-percent, got to love the Nova. I also watch a little bit of the Military Channel. I like “The Daily Show.” That makes me laugh, and “The Office” is funny. And even though I hate reality TV, I will watch “The Soup” because it is so damn funny to make fun of reality TV.

Sherdog: Who is your favorite philosopher?
Jackson: Oh, man. I don’t really have any one favorite. I have a lot of favorites for a lot of different reasons. I really like [David] Hume. I really like [Rene] Descartes. But for training philosophy, there is no one better than Mushashi.

Sherdog: What was the last book you read?
Jackson: “War,” by Azer Gat. It is the evolutionary psychology of combat.
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