Though he was battling a head cold and severe sleep deprivation, Jon Jones’ trainer Greg Jackson appeared on the 200th edition of The MMA Hour still basking in the afterglow of UFC 165’s epic main event.
And the first issue discussed was something that was on a lot of people’s minds as the fight unfolded on Saturday night: Why exactly wasn’t he officially in Jones’ corner for that battle with Alexander Gustafsson?
"I was there, but I had move back a little bit," Jackson told host Ariel Helwani, citing a miscommunication. "They only allowed three cornermen and because of name shifts or something my name wasn’t on the corner list so I had to back up a little bit and I was on the outskirts. But the other coaches handled it just fine, and I was kind of yelling and screaming from where I could be and it worked out. It was a good fight, and it worked out.
"I’ve got a great, great team and they’re much better coaches than I am. And it worked out. And I was right there, sitting right next to the corner, so I could yell stuff."
Of course, Jones was able to emerge the victor in his record-breaking sixth light heavyweight title defense, even if he was beaten to a pulp in the process. Jackson, who said that at some point Jones hurt his left foot -- the same foot he injured against Chael Sonnen back at UFC 159 -- thought the back-and-forth battle was ultimately good for the champion.
When asked if Jones’ foot injury may have played a role in some of the unexpected aspects of the fight -- such as not being able to secure takedowns and getting taken down himself for the first time in his career -- Jackson said that played less a factor than did Gustafsson's game plan.
"We could play that game, maybe, maybe not, but I think that Gustafsson just came in had a great plan and executed it really well and I think the credit should really go to him," he said. "I think he was just able to shut down those takedowns. We need to be better and evolve our set-ups to be better fighters. But I think the credit should go to Alex."
Jones went to the hospital after the fight on a stretcher, and, though his foot was the major concern, most the other injuries appear superficial. Jones had notable swelling on his face and some lacerations. We've never seen him in anyt other condition other than "near mint" leaving a fight before Saturday night.
And though the outcome was the expected one,with Jones holding off the Swedish challenger, the way it got done wasn’t. Gustafsson proved himself to be a formidable opponent for Jones, which surprised just about everybody who watched it.
Jackson said he wasn’t among them.
"Just because I’ve been in the corner so many, so many times, I’ve seen it happen where everybody says there’s no way this guy is going to win, there’s no way, and then he goes in there and gives a great battle and makes it a great competitive fight," Jackson said. "So, I wasn’t shocked at all. I know Alexander’s great, I’ve studied him a lot. It wasn’t like terribly shocking.
"Certainly I wanted it to be a lot more one-sided than it was, but no I wasn’t shocked or anything like that. It’s just too many years and god knows how many corners I’ve been in, I’ve been in too much to be like, my goodness, what’s happening?"
Jackson said that he doesn’t have a preference as to whether or not Gustafsson-Jones II is booked, or who Jones faces next. He noted that a second fight with Gustafsson was inevitable, though, and that there are a lot of things to fix heading into that fight.
"Oh yes, a lot of things, for sure," he said. "Just because you learn so much. It was a great educational experience in a lot of positive ways. You really got to see that Jon’s got a great jaw, and Jon’s got heart, there’s a lot of positives to come out of it. And then the technical deficiencies we have we’re going to correct and overcome and figure out. It was a really good thing to have happened because it gives us a blueprint of where we want to go and how we can improve."
Noting that Jones has established himself as polarizing figure so young in his career, Jackson pointed out that his champion’s not the first to fit uneasily into his own times.
"When you look back at history, and look back at the bigger picture, I like to use [Muhammad] Ali a lot because he went through similar things," Jackson said. "There were a lot of people who, especially when Ali put on some of his best performances, were screaming about it and angry about it. In hindsight those people respect Ali now, and I think that Jon’s going to go through a similar thing.
"I mean, a war like that and coming out on top. It shows his spirit, it shows his tenacity, it shows his heart -- I mean, everything that people should admire about what fighters should be inspired by was exemplified in that."
Jackson said that he doesn’t know yet Jones’ timetable for a return to the cage, but he had his druthers, he’d prefer Jones take some time off.
"I’d like him to let his body heal up and get some rest and let his head heal up, and then slowly get back at it again," he said. "But that’s up to his management and Dana [White] and everybody in the UFC as to when he’s fighting again. If my preference mattered, I’d like to see him get some rest."