February 25, 2020
The history of MMA is a long and sordid tale that goes back decades. Since the beginning, the core of MMA has always revolved around families and close knit gyms. MMA was founded in dingy basements and garages where fighters got together to train in a sport that was not mainstream or recognized. This was uncharted territory and there were no predetermined blueprints to be a champion. The groundwork to succeed in MMA was getting together with fighters that had skills that you did not possess and learning from them as they adapted some of your own skills as well.
There are few teams that are more world renowned in this space than the Jackson Wink MMA team. The roots of this gym run deep in the MMA world and it almost seems like every major professional UFC fighter has trained with this team, or fought against this team. In fact, the beginning of Jackson’s Gym has parallels with the beginning of the UFC. While the UFC was still growing its fan base, Greg Jackson was in his garage sparring with other fighters and gaining experience.
Jackson and other fighters of the era saw this growing sport and developed an insatiable interest in it. The MMA fighter archetype that we know today is a well rounded fighter that is capable in all areas of confrontation, be it striking, wrestling, or submission grappling. Jackson was one of the first people to realize that the sport would trend towards this well rounded fighter type, as opposed to the one style dominant fighters of the early days of the UFC. This realization set Jackson on the path to open his own gym, as well as creating his own fighting style, Gaidojutsu, a style that incorporates kickboxing with wrestling and judo joint locks.
From Humble Beginnings
The Jackson Wink gym was born in the roughneck city of Albuquerque, New Mexico where founder Greg Jackson was raised. Living in a tough and challenging environment instilled in Jackson the drive and ferocity he imparts in his fighters through his training. He recalls fighting being a necessity to survive. Along the way, Greg Jackson teamed up with striking specialist Mike Winkeljohn to form the gym that would be one of the biggest driving forces in MMA.
Jackson Wink is known for taking high level fighters, or building them from ground up, and refining their skills and game-plan to become elite in the world of mixed martial arts. Jackson is particularly renowned for his mental fortitude and training fighters to use elite mental processes in the cage, as well as a rigorous game plan for every opponent. These skills have made Jackson one of the most famous trainers in all of MMA and brought fighters from all over the world to train at Jackson Wink MMA Academy. Coach Winkeljohn is a striking specialist and multiple times Kickboxing and Muay Thai World Champion, winning 18 Boxing World Championships with Holly Holm and as many if not more UFC World Championships.
Home to the Best in the World
Indeed, Jackson Wink is one of the most famous and prolific gyms in all of MMA history. It seems like a challenging task to find someone on the UFC roster that hasn’t fought someone from Jackson Wink or at least trained with someone from there. The list of fighters who have walked through their gym doors is immense. Jon Jones, Holly Holm, Rashad Evans, Michelle Waterson, Keith Jardine, Andrei Arlovski, Georges St-Pierre, BJ Penn, Carlos Condit, Alistair Overeem, and the list goes on and on.
Notably, Holly Holm, the former women's bantamweight champion, is a long time resident of the gym. It can be said that Mike Winkeljohn discovered Holly Holm and saw potential in her talent at a young age. Holly has spent her entire career training under Winkeljohn and, eventually, the Jackson Wink team after Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn joined forces.
Holly won the UFC bantamweight title from the fearsome, and at the time undefeated, fighter Ronda Rousey. Rousey had terrified the rest of the female MMA world, but the Jackson Wink Team detected multiple holes in her skills that Holly would eventually exploit with her superior kickboxing. This incredible victory is often considered one of the biggest upsets in MMA history.
Jackson Wink is also home to the current UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon "Bones" Jones, who joined the gym in 2009, when he was just 22 years old. Even then he was a much sought after prospect with a 9-0 record. He has fought against the very best in the world, including two division champion Daniel Cormier, and came out the victor. It’s been a decade since Jon joined with Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, and the results have been absolutely legendary.
MMA is a sport with extraordinary variables, which spawned the saying “styles make matchups.” Die hard MMA fans always check the sportsbook platforms before these unpredictable events as even champions can have a rare moment when they are the underdog while defending their title. Jon Jones is one of the few fighters that is consistently the favorite in all of his matchups, for good reason. Throughout his stunning career fighting the best contenders in the world, Jon has never been defeated. He is widely considered the greatest fighter to ever enter the UFC cage.
Greg Jackson has won multiple awards for himself across his decorated career that have cemented his respect and legacy in MMA. He won "Best Coach Of The Year” in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and the team won “Best MMA Gym in The World” in 2009 and 2015. Still today Jackson can be found pushing the pace and training the most elite fighters in the UFC and other major organizations around the globe.
In recent news, Jackson Wink has stated they are entertaining offers for naming rights of their gym. Vying for big sponsorship deals on the horizon, moves like this will have a crossover effect with whatever company they decide to take on as a sponsor. Certainly there will be a mutual exposure benefit for both parties. There seems to be a lot of plans in the works for Jackson Wink, and who knows what the future will hold.
Like the royal family of MMA, the Gracies, or the Shamrocks, the Emelianenkos, or any others, The Jackson Wink family will forever be remembered in the MMA world as being pioneers of the sport. The effect this gym has had cannot be understated. Its DNA is intertwined with MMA and the UFC, and they will continue to evolve the sport to new levels. You can predict that when they look back on MMA history, Jackson Wink MMA will be heralded as the greatest gym in all of MMA. One thing is for certain, the story of this illustrious group is far from over, as are the tales of the individual fighters that train amongst them.
This article first appeared on JACKSONWINK.COM on 2/25/20