photo via Sportfighx.com
In just three days SportfightX: Undefeated will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center. William "SoCo" McAlister inspected every fighter in the Southeast to find the best undefeated amateur/pro fighters in the Lightweight division. The Redline Lightweight Grand Prix will start this weekend and the finals are set for the end of the year. The winner gets to keep his undefeated record and claim himself one of the best fighters in the Southeast. Along with those prestigious accolades the winner will receive a four fight contract with SportfightX. I wanted to talk with each of the competitors before the tournament and get a feel of who they are. This is a major step up in competition for all these guys and there is no easy road to the final.
The first interview that I did was with Sergeant Kenny Jackson. Jackson went 5-0 as a amateur in Georgia. For a little background information, here is a little bit of a profile on SportfightX.com:
Born on Minot North Dakota Air force Base to a father who was an E8 in the US Air Force, Sergeant Kenny Jackson comes from a family tradition of serving his country. Shortly his birth, Jackson's family moved to Habersham, Georgia and as a child he only had one dream that stuck with him in to adulthood and that was to join the United States ARMY. "Ever since I was little I use to go outside and pretend to shoot some bad guys in the name of the good ole USA."
EVeezy: First off I would just like to say thank you for your service in the Army and keeping nerds like me safe.
Jackson: Thank you for your support sir.
EVeezy: What makes you such an ambitious person? At 22 years old you have already accomplished more than most at that age.
Jackson: I think it comes from me having a family that was not as blessed as others. I didn't grow up with too much; I came from a broken home. As a young kid I got into Martial Arts and that taught me discipline and kept me out of trouble. I went into the Army and accomplished a lot there. As soon as I saw the UFC blow up the way it has, from that point on it was my goal to do what I could to make it there.
EVeezy: Would you describe yourself as angry coming from a broken home?
Jackson: Not necessarily angry. I think coming from the broken home it made me better as a person. I take absolutely nothing for granted. Of course there is going to be a little bit of anger to the parents that never took care of you when they should have. I would not say that I grew up angry though.
EVeezy: Was coming from a broken home where you didn't get that love and attention a major reason to join the Army?
Jackson: Yeah, I guess you could say that. My biological father was in the military, as was my step-father. Growing up as a kid I and my friends were always playing Army. Then going to high school, I talked to several recruiters. The more that I thought about it, the more I wanted to go. It (The Army) is basically is like a big family. The guys that I deployed overseas with and went to Iraq are closer friends to me then other friends I have known my whole life. So yeah, I guess I did find my family with the military.
EVeezy: Talk about persevering and overcoming the adversity you have faced in your life.
Jackson: You can never be satisfied with what you have. You can never be complacent in your life. If you are that is when you start falling behind and taking steps backwards. In your life you must always take steps forward because you can always better your life. Taking just a half a step forward is better than being at a stand still your whole life. In anything I do I try to put forth the most effort and focus I possibly can. I have some younger friends that look up to me, so not only am I bettering myself I am setting a good example for the people in my life. I am that person who has a positive outlook because there is no room in life for people to think negative all the time.
EVeezy: Are you still on active duty with the Army?
Jackson: Yes, I am. I will be until August 4th. That will be my six years in the military. I am going to take a few years off and put all my effort into fighting and training. I don't want to be that guy when I get older saying I could have been great, but I didn't try. If for some reason MMA does not work out for me the military will always be there.
EVeezy: what position do you hold right now in the Army?
Jackson: My MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) is an Infantryman. Since coming back from overseas I am a part of the Military Funeral Arms program. What we do on a daily basis is honor those veteran’s that have passed away. It doesn't matter if it was a solider serving their country overseas in Iraq or a 90 year old person who enlisted during the 40's. We do a wide variety of ages and honor them. I feel being a part of this detail makes me appreciate my life so much more. Every day we are out there folding the flag for veterans who have sacrificed everything. They put their entire lives on hold just to defend their country. Day in and day out it is my honor to in return honor those veterans.
EVeezy: Talk about being a solider in Iraq and coming back to the civilian world. How big or little of an adjustment is it?
Jackson: It kinda goes both ways. I think it is a little bit harder for you're infantry soldiers to transition into civilian life. We are trained to be hardcore people, to not show emotion and to do your job by following orders. when you get into the civilian world, your kind of lost. There are not many jobs out there for you're infantry soldiers to do. Unless you are going into some type of law enforcement. If you have ever been deployed or done multiple deployments you're always going to have a little bit of an edge on you. You will always be in a situation where you're aware of everything around you. It also depends on the person. The military does a great job of providing programs for soldiers to adjust back into civilian life.
EVeezy: What is your overall opinion on Military Combatives?
Jackson: I really enjoy the way they are doing it now because a lot of it is submission locks and solid strikes standing. It has been proven effective. I feel that the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu element that they are implementing in the training is a very strong form of martial arts. Overall it has been proven effective and it has worked on the battle field time and time again. I think the program is always evolving and is made soldiers more effective.
EVeezy: I have talked with some MMA fighters and they are not very receptive to Military Combatives. They all kind of snicker at it applicability in MMA.
Jackson: I would say those fighters have never trained in the Combatives program. They don't understand what we go through. I have been to Combatives at Fort Benning and it is just like MMA. I have competed in Army Combative tournaments and the way they run their program is very effective. When you enter a Army Combatives tournament the first round is a five minute round of grappling only. In the next round it is ten minutes with Pankration (grappling strikes only allowed are kicks and open palm strikes) rules. The final round is five minutes and in that round it is full MMA rules.
EVeezy: Tim Kennedy started his MMA training with Military Combatives and in August will be fighting for the Strikeforce Middleweight title.
Jackson: Yeah, I have talked to Tim a little bit. He is a really good guy. We have e-mailed a few times and he has given me some great advice about the military and MMA. Guys like Tim Kennedy are really paving the way for soldiers to stay more focused in their combative training.
EVeezy: Switching subjects, talk about where you train and who you train with.
Jackson: The main gym I train with right now is Popham Athletics we are up here in the mountains of Habersham. Not many people know that we are up here. I am trained by Bobby Popham; he is my wrestling and MMA coach and Erik Kennedy who is my Muay Thai instructor. I also go down to Faith MMA in Gainesville to train with Micah Frost.
EVeezy: For people that have never seen you fight can you describe your fighting style?
Jackson: I am a wrestler though and through. In fights I tend to show off my striking. Lately what everybody has been telling me is guys don't like to stand with me. I usually get the better of my opponents on the feet and they try and take me down. After that I just end up hitting a slick submission. I am evolving my game more along the lines of my Jiu-Jitsu as opposed to my wrestling.
EVeezy: Your opponent in the SportfightX Redline Lightweight Grand prix is going to be Dustin Center. He didn't have many nice words to say about you. What do you think of him as an opponent overall?
Jackson: The more I do research on him the more I find out he is going to be a tough opponent. He is solid. He just wants to go in there and have fun, and why not poke a little fun back at him? It’s good to get some media stirred up and get people hyped up for the fight. He didn't say nice words about me, but honestly I think that is just to sell the fight. He is just really a goofball from what I have seen. You can't ever be to serious about what you do. We will problem say a few words to each other and it will all be in good fun. After the fight we will shake hands and there will be no hard feelings.
EVeezy: Have you watched any of Dustin Center's fights?
Jackson: Yes, I have. I have seen some of his Muay Thai fights he competed in. And I have watch three of his fights in MMA.
EVeezy: Where you impressed with what you saw?
Jackson: The guy has a pretty solid double leg takedown. I know he is a Assistant coach at Cumberland University. My gameplan right now is to keep it on the feet, I believe my striking is crisper and a lot more technical than his. I believe my striking is what is going to get me the win in this fight. I just need to defend the takedown and keep it on my feet.
EVeezy: Do you believe you can stay on your feet fighting a guy that is such a good wrestler?
Jackson: I believe I can. And if for some reason he can take me down I am very active off my back. I am not just going to lay on my back and let him do whatever he wants. When in guard Center will have to defend all the submissions I am going to put on him. With me wrestling for 11 plus years I am very comfortable off my back, which is abnormal for most wrestlers. If for some reason I don't feel comfortable on the feet, I am confident I can take him down. I have several gameplans I have come up with so if plan A isn't working I can always go to plan B.
EVeezy: What did you think of Center's Thai fights?
Jackson: He looks like he is very heavy-handed. In his fights he looks like he get wild and makes mistakes. I am going to utilize my straight punches to counter act his aggressiveness. I also want to throw kicks to slow him down as the fight wears on.
EVeezy: Are you happy or disappointed with Dustin Center being your opponent in the first round?
Jackson: I am very happy with it. So guys want to pad their record as much as possible, but I would rather be 1-5 instead of 9-0 knowing that the six guys I faced are very solid fighters. You learn far more from losing than you ever do winning. especially in a cupcake fight. I would rather have a tough fight with somebody that I know is good rather than fight someone I know I will run over.
EVeezy: You say you want to face the toughest opposition. Who would you like to face in the finals?
Jackson: It is hard to say. I would really like to face Eric Kriegermeier in the finals, just because we have a little bit of history. When Eric was fighting as an ammy he beat my gym owner for the 155 pound amateur title her in Georgia. I would like to fight him because we are both hometown guys and he is very well respected. Burke from Hardcore is a very solid hitter, he is very heavy-handed. The other side of the bracket is solid, but I would love to fight Eric in the finals.
EVeezy: You are the youngest competitors in the tournament, do you see that as a disadvantage at all?
Jackson: Absolutely not! Experience always plays a factor in everything you do, but with youth comes speed and strength. Being one of the younger guys competing I feel I am the hungriest. I certainly don't see it as a disadvantage.
EVeezy: Do you watch any sports outside of MMA?
Jackson: Yeah! I like to watch Hockey and College and Possessional Football. Anything with a lot of contact. I love any sport where people are hitting each other. (Laughs) My favorite team would have to be the Minnesota Vikings because I like there defense. In highschool I played middle linebacker, and I believe in the adage defense wins championships so I like them a lot. For college I like the Michigan Wolverines, I think the helmets look really cool.
EVeezy: What do you do to have fun. Just to break the everyday cycle of training.
Jackson: I really love mountain biking and rock climbing. Going out into the woods and letting loose is what I like to do to break the monotony of training. If I don't go outdoors it will be me and my buddy's hanging out and cracking jokes. Whatever we feel like doing that day is what we do. Every now and then you got to have a break.
EVeezy: Any sponsors you would like to thank?
Jackson: Tim Holman of Shark Sports Management has been fantastic. Without him it would not have been possible for me to be competing in this tournament. Day in and Day out he is helping me look for sponsorships. It is very hard to find people that will bend over backwards for you the way Tim Holman does for me. Ranger Up has been great they will send me anything I need and give me more than I want. No Quarter and House of Pain keep me geared up and they have been great as well.