When it comes to building champions in the MMA fighting world, Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA Academy in Albuquerque is at the top of the list for most people. One of the key factors in their success is striking coach Brandon ‘Six Gun’ Gibson. We sat down with him to get a taste of what goes on inside the ring with some of the world’s top fighters.
“Brandon is constantly trying to learn and improve his game. He is creative, innovative and diligently studies. A lot of our success as a team can be directly attributed to him. ” -Greg Jackson, American mixed martial arts trainer & co-owns Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA
How long have you been a Striking Coach at Jackson’s/WinkleJohn’s?
BG: I started coaching in 2011. When I committed to it, I told myself I wanted to be a champion coach. I cornered my first amateur MMA fighter in January, and by September I was traveling with Jon Jones to prepare him for his first UFC title defense against Rampage Jackson.
What fighters have you worked since your time at J/W?
BG: I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of fighters during my time at JW’s. I’ve spent the most time working with UFC Champions and contenders like John Dodson, Carlos Condit, Jon Jones, Alistair Overeem, Cub Swanson, Andrei Arlovski, and Tim Kennedy. I’ve also spent a lot of time developing future stars like Landon Vannata, Joby Sanchez, Phil Hawes and Jodie Esquibel. –
What are you specialties as a fight coach?
BG: I think my best strength is the ability to adapt to the different styles of each fighter. Coaching these top level athletes is all about collaborating and creating. Both parties need to believe in each
other, and share the vision of the goal ahead.
What do you enjoy most about coaching?
BG: The challenge of it all. I love competing with the top gyms from around the world. I know there are fighters and coaches in different countries right now that are working towards dethroning us. I’m always trying to find ways to develop and advance martial arts technique and strategy.
What does it take to be a successful fighter?
BG: A lot of sacrifice. There isn’t much money until you reach the upper echelon. These fighters live a very disciplined and modest life style. Being a fighter is about strengthening yourself unceasingly, getting a little better mentally, physically and spiritually every day.
Were you once a fighter?
BG: I fought on the amateur level when I was younger. I suffered a bad leg break in practice one day. The injury required numerous surgeries and therapy sessions. I had a love for martial arts, and I wasn’t ready to walk away. Coaching fit my personality and strengths more than being a fighter ever did. The injury was a blessing that I am forever grateful for.
You talked about the new facility actually housing fighters from other places. Currently there are fighters at J/W from around the world. Can you name a few and where they are from?
BG: Jackson-Winkeljohn is a hotbed for developing the best fighters in the world. Currently, we have fighters from France, England, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Dagestan, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and many other countries. It’s a great atmosphere, and I’ve been able to meet some really amazing people through martial arts.
What, in your opinion, separates J/W gym from other gyms around the world, and why are so many champions coming out of here?
BG: I think it is about the approach we take towards building fighters. We like training intellectual fighters, guys that look at the sport like a chess match. Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn and been developing champions for decades, but they are never satisfied, and always looking to advance the sport.
How do you think Albuquerque helps with the success of these fighters?
BG: Culture, altitude, access, etc. Albuquerque is a great city to develop a fighter. The altitude and heat help, but we have a fighting culture that is ingrained in every citizen here in Albuquerque. The desert is a hard place to live; only the strongest and most adaptable people survive. – If you can, give us a couple of key elements that have changed during the rapid success of UFC since you started coaching.
What have you had to adjust to?
BG: We are seeing the next generation of martial artist enter the game. In the past, a fighter typically had a strength in one of the traditional arts (wrestling, boxing, ju-jitsu, etc…), now we are seeing the fighters that grew up learning all of the skills. These fighters bring a new level of talent to the UFC, and we have to find creative ways to adapt their skill set to their strategy.
During a striking session what fighter hit you the hardest?
BG: That’s a hard question. Since MMA is a weight based sport, there are fighters that hit hard for their respective weight class. Each fighter also has a few techniques that strike harder that others; Carlos Condit’s elbows, John Dodson’s left body hook, Jon Jones’ spinning back kick, Alistair Overeem’s knee, Andrei Arlovski’s uppercut.
Who is the fastest fighter you have ever worked with?
BG: John Dodson 100%. He is the fighter that challenges me the most when it comes to speed.
What fighter “blew you away” with a skill set, or maybe surprised you with an ability that you didn’t realize they had?
BG: We’ve seen some amazing fighters come out of Dagestan, Russia. When UFC fighter Rustam Khabilov first came to Albuquerque, he had the most amazing wrestling technique that I had ever seen. We knew that he was going to be something special. –
In your opinion, who is the most underrated fighter in the UFC?
BG: Who should people pay attention to as the next local up-and-comer fighting out of J/W currently? Landon Vannata and Phil Hawes. Both of these young fighters will be in the UFC within a matter of months, and both have the skillset, work ethic and mindset to go to the top.
OK, so what should we expect when Holly Holm faces Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in Australia?
BG: I’ve been very impressed with Holly in her first two UFC fights. The fight with Ronda is the fight that Holly envisioned herself winning when she signed her UFC contract. Holly and the team at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s are working very hard to bring the UFC women’s bantamweight belt back home to Albuquerque. Ronda is a great champion and one of the best athletes on the planet, but so is Holly. Ronda has never faced anyone with the caliber of striking that Holly has, not to mention anyone with the mental strength that she has.
Best places to relax/eat after a tough training session?
BG: I think almost every fighter on the team loves meeting up at Rudy’s BBQ. It’s always a great place for the team to gather after a hard training session. I typically get a 1/3rd lb of turkey, an ice tea, and a cup of green chili stew.