In in the wake of UFC 151's cancellation, mixed martial arts coach Greg Jackson has come under fire. Fairly or unfairly, some fans have suggested Jackson encourages fighters to eschew risk, travel an overly safe path and even avoid difficult fighters. Jackson, speaking to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour on Monday, repudiated those criticisms and suggested there is no opponent within relevant weight classes they don't expect UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones to fight.
"I guess the opponents really don't really matter to me because I consider we have to fight everyone as long as we do it in a way that's reasonable," Jackson said.
There was, notably, one caveat to his position, namely, that he can't recommend to his fighters - particularly UFC title holders - that they accept a bout on any specific time frame. In Jackson's word, the offer to fight has to have a 'reasonable' time line. "Fighting somebody on three days' notice is not reasonable to me," he argued. "Three weeks, four weeks, that's pushing reasonable, but it can be done."
While the narrative being circulated in public is that Jones was given eight days notice to face Sonnen - still a very short window - Jackson maintains the true window is even shorter. The last five days prior to a fight is focused on media and making weight, so the real count Jones was given to face Sonnen was a mere three days. Jackson maintains asking Jones to defend his light heavyweight title on that kind of notice is a nonstarter.
"As long as it's reasonable, the opponent doesn't matter too too much. We don't really have a No. 1 contendership position. We kind of have a vague sense of it. It's kind of hard for me to say 'yay' or 'nay' on that stuff. Again, the UFC is very good at matchmaking. That's one of the things they do incredibly well.
"As long as there's a reasonable amount of time in a professional sport for the biggest title in the world besides the heavyweight title," Jackson said. For the famed MMA coach, it's not about being afraid of challenges or thinking one fighter might have the champ's number. Instead, it's about making sure the preparation has been done to turn in an effort commensurate with a champion's skills in a bout of huge stakes. "It's a huge title and a huge sport," said Jackson. "We just want to come at it professionally."
Jackson even weighed-in on the claims Jones was particularly worried about last-minute potential challenger, former middleweight turned light heavyweight Chael Sonnen.
According to Jackson, that's not true. Sonnen is too good and Henderson is sufficiently dissimilar, Jackson said, to warrant asking for more time to face any of the top light heavyweights. In fact, Jackson believes to fight anyone at any time is admirable, but over time an unintelligent way to conduct one's fighting career.
" [It has] nothing to do with Chael at all," said Jackson. "There's nobody else who really fights exactly like Dan Henderson. If it was closer, maybe it would be be more of an option, but none of the 205-pound fighters are like him. They're all dangerous and they're all good."
"To not respect them enough and to not take them serious like 'Ok, we'll fight whoever on three days' - I mean, that's a very admirable samurai warrior spirit and that's cool and you'll fight anybody - but the other part of being a samurai and a warrior and stuff is intelligent fighting and making sure you're going to give yourself the best chance at winning."