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Greg Jackson Remains Neutral in Jones-Evans Title Drama, Coach Mike Winklejohn Sides With Jones

Rashad Evans blew up whatever semblance of a team remained between him, Jon Jones and the Greg Jackson camp earlier this week. He had harsh words for Jon Jones and his longtime coach Greg Jackson. He blamed Jackson for bringing Jon Jones into their camp against his wishes and his decision to stay out of it when things turned messy.

If you ask Greg Jackson about Rashad’s scathing remarks though, he doesn’t quite understand why he’s so bent out of shape over it. He feels he went about it the right way when he brought Jones in their camp.

“I love Rashad to death,” he told MMA Fighting this week. “I’m not sure why he’s angry at me. I guess I can see from a perspective, that isn’t really the way it is, why he’s angry, but I don’t have any animosity towards him. I’ve always tried to help him out. I was with him right after he won that reality show all the way to his world title. I’m not sure what it is.”

“The thing with Rashad is, he said he was okay with Jon coming on the team. I felt that Jon did the wrong thing by saying he would fight Rashad. But once they signed to fight, I’m staying out of it. I’m not choosing Rashad over Jon Jones or Jon Jones over Rashad; I’m staying out of the entire thing. Everybody signed on to [Jon] being on the team. It wasn’t like I brought him on with these evil intentions. I bring a lot of training partners on to the team who are in the same weight class. For instance, Donald Cerrone, Melvin Guillard, Clay Guida – all these guys are in the same division.”

“There’s a lot of people I’ve turned away, and that goes to more evidence that Jon was welcome on the team,” he said. “Because there have been some incredible fighters – and I’m not going to name names – but incredible fighters who I’ve had to say no to. If I was all about the bigger, better deal, which some people might think, I would take those guys on. But I didn’t because everyone has to be okay with it, and they weren’t. I’m very careful about how I do that.”

Jackson may choose to stay on the sidelines until this blows over, but don’t mistake his neutrality for apathy. As Sherdog’s Jordan Breen described after interviewing Jackson, the heavily team-orientated coach is having a tough time dealing with the situation on a personal level. Via Fight Opinion:

“It is unfortunate, though, to think of Greg Jackson’s position because on Saturday night when we turned the camera off on that hotel room, I mean he was like visibly and obviously emotional, like the analogy he made was like, ‘Fans think it’s great that these teammates are going to fight each other, but for me it’s like if I asked you, hey, wouldn’t it be great if your Mom fought your Dad? Wouldn’t it be awesome to see your Dad knock out your Mom’s teeth, wouldn’t that be great?’ And the way in which he said was so intense, like it was clearly something that impacts into the very essential elements of his being.”

Assuming Jackson keeps his word and stays out of Jones’ training camp, that will leave Jackson’s right hand man Mike Winklejohn to lead his camp. Fortunately for Jones, Winklejohn doesn’t feel quite the same allegiance to Evans as Jackson does. He claims any loyalty he had to Rashad went out the window when Rashad stopped returning his calls following the Machida fight, though he ponders if that’s because he mishandled how he treated Rashad following the loss.

“I’m positive I’m going to be working with Jon Jones because, well, the kid didn’t do anything wrong,” Winkeljohn told MMA Fighting. “We have a good relationship.”

“There were a lot of distractions, a lot of extra people in Rashad’s ear, him not believing in our game plan. And [against Machida] he just had one of those nights where he didn’t perform anywhere close to what he was capable of. All fighters have those nights. It just happens. He had a bad night, the night was over, and maybe I made a mistake by not consoling him enough. I know that I was the type who, when I lost a fight, I just wanted to be left alone. I kind of misread that a little bit, but he just didn’t do any of our game plan at all. Then he left. He went on the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ show, he didn’t call, and that was it. Then Jon Jones comes in.”

“I wasn’t discouraged, and hey, I like the guy,” said Winkeljohn. “But Jon Jones has wanted to work with me and his stand-up has come a long way. He’s looking tremendous. But in my mind, if I was fired by Rashad, I don’t think I should take myself out of another job just because I used to work with the guy that fired me.”

Winklejohn may have chosen sides, or as he put it, Rashad made the choice for him, but he made it a point to say that he still likes Rashad and if they were still working together, he would back out like Greg Jackson has.

Nevertheless, the battle lines have been drawn and we have our first high-profile fight between teammates. For better or worse, it was bound to happen.

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