Donald Cerrone, John Dodson and the other Jackson’s MMA fighters show family atmosphere makes better fighters

Maggie Hendricks

CHICAGO -- Donald Cerrone and John Dodson are at it again. After needling each other throughout the UFC on Fox 6 open workouts, the flyweight and the lightweight start teasing each other during Thursday's press conference. If you didn't see the smile in their eyes, you would think these two are opponents, not teammates.

But they are teammates, working together at Jackson's MMA in New Mexico as they prepared for their fights this weekend along with Shawn Jordan and Clay Guida. The camaraderie that has grown from their time in the gym showed as Cerrone and Dodson go back and forth.

"There's no tension or anything because we play around with John, and I will keep picking on him," Cerrone said.

"I already told you that. Me and Demetrious [Johnson, Dodson's opponent on Saturday] will beat your [expletive]," Dodson replies to Cerrone, before turning back to the gaggle of reporters. "With all of us playing around, it's just my family. It's my big brother trying to pick on me."

For Guida, that playfulness has turned into a second family he finds at the gym in Albuqurque, New Mexico.

"It's my family here, it's my family in Albuquerque, and it's a homecoming for Greg Jackson, too. He's from the west suburbs. To see Coach come back and get to work with his students, to see John Dodson be the main event in the flyweight title bout, that's just huge."

Jackson, the coach behind the fighters, still has most of his family in Chicago. He claims Chicago sports teams -- because his mother would never forgive him if he didn't -- and he likes bringing his fighters back here.

"When I'm downtown, it reminds me of being a kid. I spent a lot of summers here. When I come back, I get to see some old friends. I love Chicago."

"It's a cool camaraderie. A lot of ways, it's just another day at the office. It's kind of, we've been training together and now we'll see each other at the event. They're all pretty pro about it. It's cool because you get good training partners, and they're all in the same boat."

Dodson is often the man behind tension being broken. He has worked with Jackson since he was in his teens, and has always been in that role of tension breaker.

"What he's brought is that he's always in a good mood. All the time. He's just a happy-go-lucky guy. There's some people in your life who are sunshiney, who are elevating, they don't complain, they work hard, and that's him. It's nice to see him get that title shot. Hopefully he'll win, because he deserves it. He's really a great, great kid. He's always been a great kid."

As usual, Jackson has several fighters on the card this weekend. He's gotten used to juggling fighters for every UFC card, and dismisses with a laugh anyone who calls those many fighters boring.

"Donald Cerrone? My God that guy is boring. You know who is even more boring? Little John himself. Name one guy he's knocked out in the UFC ... oh wait," Jackson said sarcastically. "It's silly. Even Clay Guida. He had one bad fight, but calling that guy boring is the height of stupidity. I think that argument is pretty well dead."

The fights that will air on Fox will feature two Jackson's fighters -- Cerrone and Dodson. But he doesn't point to that to show his fighters are not boring.

"The validation is every week when we have an exciting fight. When you have the numbers of fighters I do, not every fight is going to blow everyone out of the water. That's just numbers. But to have the numbers that we have and have the success that we have, and have exciting fighters. That argument never bothers me because it's so silly."

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