Depending on what you've read over the last couple of weeks, you might think John Hackleman, the famed trainer to Chuck Liddell and other UFC fighters, has an issue with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
After all, Hackelman's fighter Glover Teixeira is facing Jones for the UFC light heavyweight championship at UFC 172 in a little over two weeks. That would be some incentive.
More than that, though, are comments Hackleman recently made in an interview when asked about whether he believes Jones is somehow not giving Teixeira his due and perhaps isn't as loved by fans as Liddell was during his day.
"I don't really pay attention to who's overlooking who, but if he's doing that, that's kind of rude and kind of a slap in the face to Glover and it's pretty disrespectful and if he is really doing that," he said. "If the fans are doing that then whatever, that's fans, but if Jon Jones is really doing that, which I don't think he really is, then, to me, that's just disrespectful and rude and that's maybe why, you know, people don't love him like they did Chuck."
"Chuck was a fighter and Glover's a fighter," Hackleman said in the interview. "They go to the gym everyday. They love to train. They love to fight. They love martial arts. They respect their opponent. They have discipline. They have courtesy to everyone. Never turned down an autograph. Never disrespect an opponent. Never prance around when their opponent's knocked out. Always make sure their opponents were OK. I mean, they're warriors. That's the way my guys are going to be. I don't know if that's the way Jon Jones is or not, but if he's not, that's why the fans don't love him like they do Chuck."
The media picked up the story that Hackleman drew a clear distinction between Liddell and Jones, although Jones declined to fire back. Yet, Hackleman says the entire thing is wildly misrepresented and wants to clear the air.
"I didn't say Jon Jones isn't like Chuck Liddell," Hackleman told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "Basically what I said was, if he did all those things, that's why people wouldn't like him like they like Chuck because I don't think he said those things. I think it was sensationalized. Everybody is trying to get every little...you know, they're trying to stir the pot, basically.
"I don't think Jon is like that," Hackleman continues. "He's a warrior. He's an athlete. He's a professional. He's a great guy. Obviously people were trying to stir the pot maliciously and not maliciously just by misquoting or just tweaking one word and making it something else."
According to Hackleman, everything hinged on the word 'if'. If Jones said those things, then sure, he's in the wrong, but Hackleman said he didn't think any of that was true, so none of the rest of his comments really matter.
"It's just something, to me, that got taken out of context and got put in the wrong place. It's like if a cop said, 'If you speed, I'm going to give you a ticket.' Then the next thing you know, you're saying, 'That guy said he's going to give me a ticket.'
"It was sensationalized and all of sudden, of course they're going to hit the ground and run with it because it makes good press. But, no, I don't think Chuck is being compared to Jon Jones or vice versa. I think they're different people, different champions. So, that's it, basically."
That said, what about the truth of the matter? does Hackleman believe Liddell was more loved during his run as champion than Jones is currently in the midst of his title defenses?
"I do," Hackleman admits, "and I think a lot of that has to do with Jon's age. He's a lot younger. They're different. It took a long time for Chuck to grow on people. They're different minded. Chuck is just a warrior all the time and sometimes he didn't always think 'What's best for me?' He always thought, 'I want to bang'. People like that. They relate to that and they like that, and Chuck loved his fans."
Ultimately, Hackleman is insistent that while Liddell was adored during his day, it's just not fair to compare the two champions. In his words, they're simply too 'different' for any meaningful comparison to take place.
"I think it's just different," he says. "They're different fighters, different skill sets, different set of fans.
"I knew this about Chuck when he was amateur kick boxer fighting in Bakersfield at the StrongBow Arena. I knew that whether he made champion or not, which I did know he'd make champion or not, but I knew just by knowing him, he was going to be a star. I could just tell. Even before his first fight, you could tell, 'This guy is going to be a star'. And he was and he is."
Perhaps most interestingly, Hackleman admits he's worked with Jones in a limited capacity in the past, which is why he says they're friends today.
"We've hung out, talked about stuff, little technique stuff and gone over some stuff. We've done some technique work before a fight," Hackleman says.
While the trainer elected to not go into detail, he said what he learned of Jones was impressive, but neither worked so closely together or for so long that they fully know the depth and breadth of each other's game.
"Everybody changes so much with every fight. I was working on one specific thing with him, so I didn't see his whole array of skills or talents even though I have in his fights. He didn't get a full glimpse of my training strategies or style, but we worked on a couple of techniques in the past," Hackleman acknowledges.
"He's just an unbelievable athlete. I think it's a mutual respect that we have for each other. We're friends. If I see him, we're not going to walk by each other without a hug and talking. We've always been friends and we will [be] after this fight. This is a sport. We're not going to war. There isn't any kind of hatred. This is a sport with a common respect that people have for each other, coaches and athletes. There's a mutual respect and it's going to stay there no matter what the outcome of this fight is."
That bond Hackleman is insistent the two have from working together is why he believes the comparisons to Liddell are unfair. Jones is doing his thing, says Hackleman, while Chuck did his. Different times, different eras and different opponents, for the most part. Why bother trying to compare two things too dissimilar?
"[Liddell]'s a different person than Jon Jones. Jon is a great fighter. He's an unbelievable talent. He's a really, really nice guy, a sharp guy, a smart guy," Hackleman concludes. "They're just different."