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Heading into UFC 114, Rashad Evans’ trainer Greg Jackson is confident that his fighter is ready to deliver the goods

By Zach Arnold | May 23, 2010

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In an interview last Friday with Sherdog radio, Greg Jackson was unwavering in his confidence about Rashad Evans being able to deliver the goods at UFC 114 this Saturday night in his fight against Rampage Jackson.

Jackson has not been on camera a lot for the recent UFC Primetime shows, but it doesn’t mean that he is an invisible figure in the training camps.

“Rashad’s doing his camp up [at Grudge Training Center in Colorado], it’s going really well. I’m up there a bunch myself and it’s going really, really good. You know, he’s got Mike Van Arsdale and a lot of people are up there helping him out, all our heavy guys are doing their thing there and it’s just great, it’s a great training facility. It’s one of our sister schools. We have that one and of course in New York and Montreal and we kind of cycle through them all and just have a great time doing it.”

With UFC sending video crews to tape both of the fighters camps to get footage to hype the fight up on Spike TV, Mr. Jackson is a veteran at dealing with the camera crews and tipping his hand as far as what is allowed and not allowed to air on television in regards to secret training footage.

“I mean the cameramen are old pros. They know when to film and when not to film and you know we can say, listen this is game plan stuff, this isn’t game plan stuff, so usually it’s pretty straight forward.

“Most of those guys are really good and they’re old vets and you know they’re going to get all the drama and stuff like that but it wouldn’t make any sense to have a film crew following you around, giving all your secrets away, I don’t care how much money they’re paying you and then you get your butt kicked in the fight, you know that would be not the smartest approach to combat.”

Mr. Jackson noted that because of all the experience he has had in the past dealing with UFC camera crews at gyms that it’s not a big complication as far as how the taping impacts the training schedule.

“The nice thing about these guys is that we’ve had the cameras around and this kind of stuff for a while so we’re pretty good at it. When Georges has it at Montreal and now Rashad’s had it in Denver, we’ve had a bunch come into New Mexico before documentaries and stuff like that so we’re pretty good at it.”

Admittedly, he watches the Primetime shows to get a feel for what Rampage Jackson is up to in training.

“You do (watch) just to get into intel to see what they’re working on and of course it’s going to be edited, they’re not going to show you everything they’re working on but you can kind of see the timing and what they’re doing sparring, so absolutely you want to get your intel with any source that you can.”

One of the hottest topics going into the fight has to deal with the racial remarks both men have made in media circles to hype up their UFC 114 fight. Jackson doesn’t see the trash talking as anything new or as any sort of statement on race relations in 2010.

“You probably have to ask Rashad [if it’s personal], but I do know that you know it is a tool that has been used by a lot of people before. Muhammad Ali being the most notable calling different people an Uncle Tom or you know especially when the Floyd Patterson fight back in the day so, calling into question how you conduct yourself within your ethnicity I think is a very old tactic, nothing new but you’d have to ask Rashad as to how personal that actually is.

“It’s a tool to get in his head. … And again you have a kind of a tradition of that kind of stuff, you know accusing someone of not being a true Mexican or whatever it is that you can do to kind of get under their skin, so I don’t think it’s a race relations thing at all. But again that’s just one man’s opinion.”

Jackson also doesn’t think that Rashad Evans is taking the insults hurled at him personally and doesn’t expect it to effect Rashad’s fight performance on Saturday night.

“Rashad’s so smart, I mean, people don’t really I don’t think understand how smart this guy is. He’s really sharp. He knows better than to let him get emotional about it or heated about it and I think he’s going to be all business when it comes fight time and do his thing. I’m not worried at all about him like you know getting drawn into ‘I’m going to knock Rampage out in 15 seconds!’ That’s just not in his mentality. He’s a real sharp, careful guy.”

The fight between Evans and Jackson was supposed to happen last December at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee — Rampage’s old stomping grounds. Instead, he took a role in the A-Team movie and admittedly showed up last February in Australia not in the best of shape (at around 250 pounds). Mr. Jackson told Jack Encarnacao that you have to be ready for anything in the fight game and that includes fights getting canceled and fighters having to train for the same opponent twice in a row.

“I wish I could say that it’s a unique situation but unfortunately that’s the fight game, you know, it happens more than you might think. You get ready to fight a guy, something happens, you fight another guy, then you go back to fighting that guy, and you know that’s pretty much par for the course. That’s part of the fight game. You know I always joke like that these Rocky movies, everything goes so smooth even if they lose, it’s all right, that’s just never the way it works out in real life. It’s always you know a kind of bumpy road getting anywhere you want to go so it’s basically that’s the fight game. That’s the part they don’t tell you about.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Jackson is gearing up to prepare for Rampage’s A-game and is not thinking about Rampage as being rusty or not in prime fighting condition.

“No, because you can’t go in thinking that way. I mean it’s completely pointless. If he’s not the best Rampage ever that will make our strategy that much easier. If he’s the best Rampage ever then it’s business as usual. But our mentality going in there, you cannot be ‘oh, well, this guy’s had a year off’ as soon as you go in with that you’ve already won the fight instead of actually having to fight the fight and that’s really dangerous and so we never think that way, it’s never even on my mind as a trainer. I think he’s going to be the Rampage that we’ve ever, ever seen and I hope he is because we have the best Rashad that’s going to be performing that night, so you never want to go in there with those kind of things. That’s more for the fans to speculate about, you know what I mean, when you’re a professional and a trainer and a fighter you can’t get into that kind of stuff, it puts you in the wrong mentality, if that makes any sense.

“I’m one of those guys that it’s kind of like my job to worry. So it all worries me because I want to make sure that we’ve addressed all the contingencies that can happen or as many as we can anyway. He’s a powerful striker. He has pretty good wrestling, you know he’s savvy, he’s smart, he’s a vet, he knows how to even if he’s losing a round how to relax a little bit and come back, so there’s a lot of stuff, a lot of tools that he brings that I really actually have a lot of respect for him. I think he’s great. So, it’s just trying to cover all those bases and making sure that we don’t get caught doing something dumb. That’s the big part of my job.”

One aspect of Rampage’s arsenal that Rashad Evans will have to address is his ability to box.

“No, you can’t you obviously can’t avoid it, you’re going to have to play that game at some point but I’m pretty confident in Rashad’s kickboxing ability. I think that he’ll be able to do just fine. He’s definitely skilled enough and talented enough and fast enough to do what he needs to do to stay out of trouble up there. Rampage’s an excellent boxer, it’s true, but Rashad’s really good too and I’m always going to bet on my guy.

“There a lot of options that we have and we will try to have a good plan and a back-up plan and a back-up plan so we should be all right with those kind of situations and just make sure that we can get done what we got to get done.”

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