EXCLUSIVE | Coach Talks Jon Jones Toe: “100% Sure He’ll Be Back Soon” | Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio
One of mixed martial arts’ top striking coaches, Mike Valle, took some time Sunday to talk with BJPenn.com Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio about his career as a coach and how that led him to cornering a few fighters at this past Saturday’s UFC 159 event in Newark, New Jersey.
Alongside Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, Mike Valle is one of the coaches at Jackson’s MMA who has been leading a number of MMA fighters to the top of the game. Just this past weekend he cornered Leonard Garcia, Rustam Khabilov and UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones.
Valle split the night, with Garcia losing to Cody McKenzie via unanimous decision, but Khabilov and Jones both earning first round TKO’s.
On Garcia’s fight, Valle stated, “It was one of those nights, you know. Leonard couldn’t get it started early in the rounds; and then Cody, sometimes we underestimate the ground game, but he’s pretty slick on the ground, he keeps people well down. It was just one of those nights. He couldn’t get going, and I mean, Cody came out and fought his fight, he did great.”
Rustam Khabilov’s fight ended in a rather unusual manner, with his opponent Yancy Medeiros suffering a severely dislocated thumb as the result of one of Khabilov’s slams. On this impressive performance, his second fight in the UFC (both of which were ended with slams), Mike Valle is optimistic for the fighter’s future.
“I mean Rustam,” said Valle, “the work ethic is just amazing. Everything, all that week for the fight, they’re cold. The Russians are cold. Great fighters, great persons. Hopefully with this win, I’m pretty sure they’re going to give him a higher ranked guy, so we’ll see. But he has a lot of capabilities to get on the top ten pretty soon.”
In a night that was chock-full of eye-pokes and unusual injuries, the main event even carried its own scare, with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones breaking the big toe of his left foot during his first-round stoppage of challenger Chael Sonnen. Jones became aware of his injury during his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, only then feeling the pain of the injury.
For Valle, the injury is only a minor hiccup in the champion’s career. He stated, “The injury will not affect his upcoming performance. How long he’s going to be out, we don’t know, it could be two months, a month, three months- we don’t know. About the fight, I mean Jon doesn’t pick his opponents. The UFC said Chael was next in line, so we got prepared for it. We took it as serious as any other fight. It just doesn’t make a difference who it was. We would have trained the same, and the outcome would have been the same. The injury, I mean, it’s unfortunate that it happened in this fight, but it could happen in any fight. Whether it’s going to be an issue [in] upcoming [fights]? Absolutely not, man. Jon is a great guy, he looked good, and he’ll be good. He’s the type of fighter, if they get their arm broken [or] their jaw broken, they come back and fight. He’ll be alright. Absolutely, man. Jon is a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal fighter. He’ll be back soon, I guarantee it. I’m 100% sure he’ll be back soon, and he’ll be the same.”
On Jones’ performance overall, Valle revealed that the gameplan of taking Sonnen down and utilizing ground-and-pound tactics was something the champion declared the morning of the fight.
“He did say that morning, we were having a team breakfast, [he] said, ‘You know what, man, I’m just going to go out there, I’m going to take him down first; I’m going to do what he does to people,’ you know, just like that. He went out there and took him down three times, pretty much Chael couldn’t handle the pressure of Jon on top; Jon is too much on top. He gets on top of you, you’re in big trouble.”
With such a strong team of coaches and fighters at Jackson’s MMA, Valle is busy working every day with champions and newcomers alike. He talked about the coaching process at Jackson’s as detail- and team-oriented, but he also spoke personally about the reward he receives by coaching.
“It’s just an honor to see all those kids when they get into the gym the first day and how they start developing, as a person and then as a fighter too. You know, it’s just amazing. Well, man, the biggest reward- I mean for all the coaches out there, for Greg and for us as a team- to develop the fighters and make them better. That’s the biggest reward. But that reward is for the team. We give a lot of love to the guys, you know, we make them feel so comfortable in there that they give a lot of love back to the gym. That’s actually the big family that we have- that’s the biggest reward we get out of it.”
Valle, who used to run a small local gym before moving to Albuquerque to coach for Greg Jackson, talked about the move in location and also position at the gym.
“I came here to Jacksons to start helping… and at that time, Gina [Carano] was training there. Gina contacted me and said, ‘Hey Mike, I want you to help me in this camp,’ so it was just a decision. I contacted Greg, and Greg told me, ‘You’re welcome to come over here whenever you want to, you can move, I would love to have you here.’ So I just flew back, and from one thing to another, I just closed my gym and just jumped at the opportunity, and here I am. It wasn’t hard- it was hard for my family, to be honest, my wife was a teacher back there so she had to go to Albuquerque and get a job- actually it was hardest for my family, but not too much for me. But I think it was the right decision, right now, I’m happy… Greg is very, very structured with that. He’s an awesome coach. It’s an honor for us, as coaches, to be learning every day from him, you know, it’s awesome.”
You can check out Sunday night’s episode of Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio here or by clicking the player below.