By Elias Cepeda
A video emerged this week showing a controversial moment during Jon Jones‘s title-defense against Alexander Gustafsson, but it was what could be heard in the video, not seen, that raised some eyebrows. In the background, the voice of what would seem to be an athletic commission official asks another man what his name is.
That man answered, “Greg Jackson.” Jackson, of course, is well known as Jones’s head coach, but he was promptly told that his name was not on the list of approved cornermen and forced to leave the area.
CagePotato spoke with Jones’s striking coach, Mike Winkeljohn — who was also in the champ’s corner that night in Toronto, but was able to stay there for the duration of the fight — and asked him what, exactly, happened.
“Normally for title fights a fighter gets four cornermen except for in Ontario where they have always just allowed three for some reason,” Winkeljohn explained. ”Heading into the fight, though, we were told that we had gotten permission to have four corners for Jon. We were all allowed to walk out and get in the corner with him and stayed there during the first round, but heading into the second round I could hear a commission inspector talking to Greg.
“I was trying to focus on the fight, on Jon, because it was a stand-up fight and I’m constantly speaking to him in code so it’s important not to have that communication disrupted. After the round, I find out that Greg was told to leave. We had permission from someone back there, but a different person — the inspector — for some reason didn’t let us. He was just doing his job as he thought he should, and you can’t blame him.
“Luckily, it didn’t affect the fight too much, but it could have. What Greg and I usually do anyway is, if it’s a stand up fight, I go in the cage in between rounds and if it’s a grappling one he goes in. So, Jon didn’t even notice in between rounds because he expected to see me in there with him, because the fight was happening on the feet for the most part. When Greg goes in the cage he has a calming effect on fighters so he does that and then I give some tactical advice. It could have ended up a lot worse. Greg was able to send over his thoughts and coaching to the other coaches from where he was sitting. It could have been worse but we don’t want it to happen again.”
As for the close fight itself, we asked Winkeljohn what he thought of it. On Monday I’d written that Jones finally encountered some difficulty beating an opponent with his flat-footed, one-strike-at-a-time style of fighting. Coach Winkeljohn rejected the idea that Jones always fights flat-footed and said that the champ hurt one of his feet early in the fight and it made things a lot more difficult from then on out.
“Well, Jon checked a kick in the first and hurt his foot. That made it harder for him to stay on his toes, and he fought flat-footed after that. It made it harder to get in and out of things,” the coach explained.
It looks like Gustafsson will not get the automatic rematch he’d hoped for now, but Coach Winkeljohn seemed fine with the idea when asked. “Personally, I would like to see the rematch,” he told us.
“Because I think everyone would see a different Jon Jones.”