Trainer Greg Jackson on Jon Jones-Alexander Gustafsson rematch: 'Yeah, let's do it'

Esther Lin

Count Greg Jackson among those who wish to see the rematch between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and the fighter who pushed him further than any other, Alexander Gustafsson.

"Yeah, let's do it," Jones' trainer said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "As long as you get here in enough time for camp. ... I would not fight [Gustafsson] with one week of camp. But if he wants to get here and get going, absolutely."

Of course, Jones has yet to agree to the date for the proposed fight with Gustafsson, in no small part due to the fact Jones and the UFC are going through a contract negotiation period. On that end, the man many consider MMA's finest trainer reminds people that he's Jones' trainer, not his manager.

"All I do is I hold the bucket and I get out," Jackson said. "Malki [Kawa], First Round Management, that's their deal and what they do on the business side is their thing. I'm not sure what's happening [contractually] at all.

"Me, I'm like ‘here's the opponent, here's the best way we can beat them,'" Jackson continued. "The only time I ever interfere is when they ask ‘should I fight somebody on eight days notice,' which is a math problem and I thought that was not a good idea. That was my foray into management."

Whenever that gets resolved, Jones is going to have some tough work ahead of him, in both Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier, who is expected to get the shot at the Jones-Gustafsson winner. For his part, Jackson relishes either challenge.

Asked if he preferred for Jones to fight Gusty or DC, Jackson demurred. "It doesn't matter, they're both so tough man," Jackson said. "They're both just animals. Whichever one comes up, the important thing is for Jon to have enough time to prepare, to be ready. If you fight a Cormier or a Gustafsson, you gotta come in on the top of your game. So as long as he puts in a full camp and is prepared and ready to rock, I believe in him 100 percent. Both of those guys are so tough, one of the other, there is going to be no easy night on that one."

Jones is the marquee name at Jackson's gym in New Mexico. But a who's who of fighters have set foot in the gym over the years, and the roster is as deep as any in the sport.

As it turns out, this is no ordinary week in Albuquerque. The UFC pulls into on Saturday for an Ultimate Fight Night card in what, incredibly, is the first time MMA's biggest promotion has pulled into town.

The card at Tingley Coliseum is loaded with Jackson's MMA fighters, from the main event, where Rustam Khabilov takes on former lightweight champion Benson Henderson; to the co-main, in which Diego Sanchez fights Ross Pearson; to an intriguing flyweight rematch between Jon Dodson and John Moraga.

And while it's exciting to have local fans buzzing about the UFC coming to town, Jackson, who has been all over the world cornering fighters, likes the hometown event for a more mundane reason.

"The biggest deal is -- and there is not too many people who will understand this -- but here's one of them, is that I get to sleep in my own bed," Jackson said. "And that's a big deal. We've been doing this 20-something years and its nice, this will be the first time we've had a UFC and I get to sleep in my own bed. I take a lot of pride in that. That's really cool."

Jackson can't rest much until then, of course, not with Khabilov taking a major step up in competition and facing Henderson, the former UFC and WEC champ. The 17-1 Degestani has won six straight and is 3-0 in the UFC. But in Henderson (20-3), Khabilov meets a fighter who hasn't lost to anyone not named Anthony Pettis since 2007.

The ever-optimistic Jackson looks forward to confronting Henderson's unique style. "It really is. You gotta kind of beat him everywhere. there's no one spot we're you're like, here's where we're going to get Benson. You have to be well-rounded to win that fight, win the battle everywhere. The wrestling, the kickboxing, the jiu-jitsu. We're going to have to try to win every battle we can. We're going in with that kind of mentality and every part of that fight."

Win or lose, Jackson believes Khabilov's first UFC main event will be a solid learning experience.

"He's trained really, really hard, and Benson's super tough," Jackson said. "I know [Henderson] really well, his coach is a great friend of mine, John [Crouch], I know those guys and they're super tough. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose. If we win, hey, that's great. We're one step closer to the belt, like you said, it's a major step up. Even if we lose and we learn from it, that's a major step too. Of course we're trying everything we've got to win, but there's no pressure on us and that's a beautiful place to be. You can really go out and fight your best when that is the case."

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