Exclusive Interview With Premier MMA Coach, Mike Winkeljohn

Joshua CareySenior Analyst IJuly 30, 2010

Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts has become one of the premier mixed martial arts fight teams in the sport.


Coach Winkeljohn was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he began a professional kickboxing career that led to three world titles.


He retired with a professional kickboxing record of 25-7-3 with a perfect 2-0 record in boxing.


Winkeljohn opened his own gym in 1983 and with his expertise in striking he became widely regarded as one of the top trainers in the world.


In 2007, he closed that gym and combined efforts with Coach Greg Jackson.


Through a mutual friend the two met and started working with one another on different aspects of fighting. From there the partnership was formed into what is now a well-built coaching duo.


“We actually met through a mutual friend, Chris Luttrell. He was an All-American wrestler and he had hooked up with Greg and it all kind of came together from there.”


Come together it has, and the enjoyment of seeing his fighters improve has been a true reward to the coach.


“I always figured that I would out hustle and be in better shape than everybody else. I had always been training guys and I’ve always just enjoyed getting fighters to do what I never did,” Winkeljohn explained. “With coaching, It’s very rewarding seeing that unfold during a fight and it’s a great thing.”


Fighters and coaches work diligently on game plans and techniques for their respective fights in hopes on seeing it successfully unfold.


With that being said, the feeling for a coach being in the corner and watching those things develop for his fighter is second to none.


“It’s great, there’s a closeness that comes through training guys and making things happen. I’m lucky to have many guys that are intelligent. For instance, when Rashad Evans fought Chuck Liddell. He (Rashad) came into my room the night before and said, “coach let’s go over the gameplan”. I told him, “Rashad you’re going to get this guy to come to you and you’re going to hit him with an overhand so hard that I’m not going to be able to get in there and celebrate with you until he wakes up,” Winkeljohn said.


“Maybe that’s just luck of the draw but when those things come true those are the moments that are perfect. You know you did your job and you’re helping them pursue their dreams. It feels good to give back that way.”


According to Winkeljohn, he had a coach of his own that helped him pursue his dreams and If he can help his fighters the same way his coach did for him then they will all benefit.


 “My coach was Bill Packer, he did the same for me. He told me that it wasn’t about being the toughest guy everywhere you go but that it’s about being respectful and bettering yourself,” he explained.


“At that time, I had never had anyone at that level come to me and say that. It might not mean a lot to some people but it did for me and if I can get these guys to think the same way we’re all stronger for it.”


That very attitude and a certain level of trust have made both Winkeljohn and Jackson operate like a well-oiled machine.


“It’s a lot of trust and my job is very easy. I know if our guys ever hit the ground they’re going to scramble and get out of it because of Greg,” Winkeljohn explains. “I totally trust what he comes up with and he trusts what I come up with in the standup. We know how to transition between both and we don’t get in each others way.”


With that in mind, Winkeljohn and Jackson not only have the trust between them but also of many elite fighters and champions in the sport.