As in any sport, MMA has allowed some of the trainers and coaches of our most popular fighters to be characters and stars within themselves. Before running a gym that was an one time UFC championship stable, Pat Militech was a UFC champion himself; Greg Jackson is just as noted as the fighters he has helped hone their craft; Cesar Gracie is at times as raw as the Diaz brothers he trains and has managed. Although nestled on the sunny central coast of California, the little town of Arroyo Grande is home to the most recognizable coach in mixed martial arts, John Hackleman. Coach and trainer to former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell in addition to: Glover Teixeira, Antonio Banuelos, Court McGee and other former or current Zuffa roster names. Focusing not on MMA alone, Hackleman desires to bring the martial arts code and respect with him and his fighters every time they enter the fight.
Fight Hub was able to speak with the Pit Master and get his thoughts on UFC 172, Chuck fighting again, training new and current fighters, and his plans for the future involved with the sport.
FHTV: UFC 172, do you think that the arm crank broke Glover mentally for the rest of the fight?
Hackleman: I think since it happened so early and took so much out of his game, the right shoulder – he could not load up on his punches, no flexibility, no range of motion, it was all an uphill battle from there, I think that definitely works against you mentally. He had a huge tool taken away from him but still went in and put his heart into it. He was hurting afterwards and is going in for the MRI this week and we will see what they say.
FHTV: Did you think that the arm crank and eye pokes were “dirty fighting”?
Hackleman: I don’t think it was dirty for the arm crank. I think he saw it and the opportunity, I mean if you see it you’re gonna take it, like if you have a kimura you will crank until it breaks or you hit someone’s chin until you knock them out. The eye poke, I think that is the blame on the glove in this fight, there are times when it is blatant but I would not call Jon Jones a dirty fighter because of this past fight, no.
FHTV: Before the bout, Jon Jones and Chuck Liddell went back and forth and Jones said he would be open to a super fight, what do you think the possibility is for that?
Hackleman: No, no, NO! Chuck is not fighting again. He is not coming back. He is not training for any fights.
FHTV: Beyond the pre-fight talk, Jones has gone on Instagram and posted a picture of Liddell post fight, poking fun at him after his good friend lost, what do you make of that? (Ed. Note: Time of interview, John Hackleman had not seen the posting, Fight Hub TV emailed the link to him, to which he responded in the interview and via his Twitter)
Hackleman: I hope that Jon’s not posting pictures or doing anything like that. I feel that is disrespectful if he is and not very humble and Christian of him and how he wants us to perceive him. I don’t know, maybe it is his manager or someone in his circle trying to stir the pot or something but that is a douche move. If he (Jon Jones) did do it or does know about it, I would take them down and have some more respect and I hope it is not him, I have a lot of respect for him. If he knows about it, don’t be a douchebag and do that – take the pictures down, show a little more respect and treat this like a martial art.
FHTV: Talking again on Chuck, how do you feel he would he have done against Jon Jones?
Hackleman: That is a totally different fight and not something I can really answer you know. Chuck and Glover are two different fighters, be like comparing the styles of like Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali, two different fighters who both approach it different. Like their punches, Glover hits with a thud, like Mike Tyson – just BOOM! Chuck however, he has that snap like a karate reverse punch where it’s like WHAP! and you’re out; so yeah, two different fighters and two different fights.
FHTV: You are on the road a lot either training for a fight, the event itself, or special things like a TUF coaching assignment, how do you adjust coming back being away from the gym (The Pit) for those periods of time?
Hackleman: I miss it. I miss the family here, my school, the students, and my dogs – all of it. I am glad when I come home, to be home.
FHTV: How was it doing the TUF show again this time helping coach with BJ Penn and his team?
Hackleman: It was fun. You know, a good time, got to go out there, hang out with Mark Coleman, BJ (Penn) and the guys. Free most of the day, do some filming here and have kind of the day free and then come back.
FHTV: That show being on for 19 seasons now, it has changed itself from what it started as – a platform to build these fighters, to what some think is a house with free booze and cage fights. What do you think?
Hackleman: Of all the times I have been out there to help with it and as long as it has been on, I have never watched one episode of the show. I am sure there is some stuff going on in the house, like I heard there was a guy who took a sh*t in the top part of the toilet, you get the guys who want to fight sometimes, and some stuff like that but I don’t know really about the show when it is on.
FHTV: Doing those shows and seeing veteran guys and new guys, do you ever see someone and say to yourself ‘I can help this guy or that guy and need to coach them’?
Hackleman: No, not really. I mean I am there to help and will help but I have the guys at my school who I want to train and want to work with and do not want any more students. I want to help get the guys I have better and continue to run my martial arts school and fitness. That’s what I really want to do.
FHTV: How are the other guys like Antonio Banuelos and Court McGee doing?
Hackleman: Antonio is good; he is there a lot helping with the rest of the team and classes, always training. Looking for something decent to come along and hopefully get back into the UFC one day; Court is going in for surgery this week, he injured his rib and it was a little more severe than we thought so he might be out for a year. He is the type of guy though, I know will come back so much stronger, so much more on fire for it, it will be a whole new animal.
FHTV: When you see an injury like Anderson Silva’s leg break, what is your opinion on their future?
Hackleman: Each fighter is different and so are their bodies. I mean you have to look at the break, how bad is it, how soon can it get treated, was it clean break? So many factors go into it and if they feel god enough to get back on it, go for it. Silva is doing really good and I think that he will be back fighting sooner than he and everyone else expected.
FHTV: Do you see “The Pit” franchising out and growing?
Hackleman: I have the school here in Arroyo Grande, CA and that is my focus. I have schools around the country who have utilized the criteria and techniques and things like that I am affiliated with.
FHTV: Looking at it from strictly martial arts, how does our Hawaiian Kempo style differ from traditional Ed Parker, Kenpo Karate?
Hackleman: Night and day between us. They have a lot of the forms and katas still in their system structure and I took that away. I did not see where it was functional or realistic in a real world scenario. I had to do all of it to earn my rank and can remember like a “shooting star stance” or “tiger’s claw” and had to do all of that thinking – when am I going to use this? My teachers would just tell me, do it and when you’re black belt you won’t need to do it again.
FHTV: How do you feel the UFC is doing in the sense of promoting fights and giving the fans what they want to see?
Hackleman: I think they are doing a great job. I mean look at everything they are putting on and putting on these shows. Doing real good.
FHTV: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us John.
Hackleman: Thank you for talking with me, real pleasure.