At the time, Jackson was in his early PRIDE days, while Gibson was preparing for a Shooto fight in Japan. The two reconnected to help Jackson prepare for his recent grudge match with Rashad Evans, and Gibson has played an even bigger role in preparing Jackson for his fight with Lyoto Machida at UFC 123. He feels the second time around will bear fruit in the octagon.
"The difference between last camp and this one is apples and oranges," Gibson told MMA Fighting. "His mentality, everything is superb. He's having more fun, you notice he's smiling more. He's enjoying himself. He trained really hard for this fight and he's excited to show it."
Gibson said he's focused on bringing diversity back into Jackson's game. While Jackson was under Juanito Ibarra, he faced some criticism about becoming one-dimensional.
According to Compustrike statistics, Jackson has averaged 89 standing strikes over his seven UFC bouts. Eighty of them have been arm strikes (nearly 90 percent), meaning that Jackson practically abandoned kicks and knees even as Ibarra guided him to a UFC championship reign. Jackson eventually split with Ibarra after losing the title to Forrest Griffin in July 2008.
"I'm bringing back the old Rampage, but new and improved plus more," Gibson said. "The guy with takedowns, slams, punches, kicks. The man's got vicious kicks and elbows, and nobody's seen it yet because he had a manager and trainer who was just a boxer, and he got him in that state of mind. But now he's ready to go."
Jackson on Thursday credited Gibson with changing his approach, a process that began during training for his fight with Evans, though Jackson admitted he had trouble implementing it on fight night.
"Lance is an excellent coach and I really like the training camp we had the first fight, but it's like I never got the chance to showcase the things that he taught me because the first camp was so hard," Jackson said, referring to his return to fighting after filming the film The A-Team. "The fight made it hard to do the stuff I was taught. Hopefully this fight I can showcase the things I was taught."
Jackson has promised an aggressive approach to the fight against the often defensive-minded Machida, and he believes he has the tools to hurt the ex-champ.
With two camps behind them, both Jackson and Gibson believe they have an understanding of how to get to Machida and succeed where most others have failed.
"Pretty much you've got to be the predator and make him the prey," Gibson said. "I've watched Lyoto for years. Great fighter, but I couldn't figure out why people weren't catching him. Obviously Shogun [Rua] did. It's there, but people have been mystified by that little bit of awkward movement he uses. Don't focus on what he does. Do whatever you're going to do. That's what we focus on."