Exclusive Interview: John Hackleman

By Percy Crawford


Exclusive Interview: John Hackleman

“I think I can get Chuck ready for Cro Cop pretty easily.”

Boxingtalk.com recently caught up with Pitmaster and trainer of UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, John Hackleman. Hackleman talks about a fight with Rampage, a potential fight with Mirko Cro Cop as well as his disappointment in Wanderlei Silva. You don’t want to miss who he thinks will win the boxing match between Tito Ortiz and UFC president, Dana White. Check it out!

PC: How’s everything going John?

JH: Fabulous!

PC: I know Chuck is coming off of a case of pneumonia. How is he doing right now?

JH: He came back and his first day back training, he was still coughing, but he was in as good a shape as anyone on the team. He was pulling numbers on the rowing machine like before he left; when he was in top shape for his last fight. His sprint time was the same. Everything is the same. He came back in as good of shape before he left.

PC: The plan was to bring Chuck back in late May possibly UFC 71. Is that still the plan or will he take a longer rest?

JH: No. He will still fight at the end of May.

PC: At this stage of Chuck’s career with all the popularity he’s gained, do you think it’s important to cut down his entourage a little bit?

JH: (Laughing) Yeah! I’ve been working on that 16 years. He trains with the same coach, he has the same sparring partners he’s always had and he has the same entourage he’s always had, but now there’s other people in his ear, you know? “You going to the thing, you should be a movie star, yada, yada, yada.” As for his entourage, he still hangs out with and trains with the same crew, but like I said, now he travels all over and makes these appearances and it’s always Mr. Hollywood over here that thinks he’s the next Van Damme or something.

PC: Did you watch the Dallas interview live and if not, who told you about it and what was your first reaction to it?  

JH: I didn’t see it live. Somebody told me about it that morning, like an hour after it happened. I knew more than most knew what was going on. I know how he is in the morning. I knew he has taken Nyquil. I’ve seen him get up at 6 in the morning acting like that without anything. Then I find out one of his friends gave him a sleeping pill to go along with that Nyquil. You wake up in the middle of the night after one of those sleeping pills and you don’t even remember where you were. It was just a typical sleeping pill, Ambien, but that was it. I talked to Chuck about it and he told me that’s all he took and I believed him. He since then has taken a pee test and it came back totally negative. So we’re good. We knew what it was and it’s like I say, if you talk to Chuck anytime before noon, he doesn’t sound too different from that.

PC: So you won’t be kicking his ass no time soon over that interview, right?

JH: No, no, no, no, no! He feels bad about it. Whoever the guy was that was with him before the interview and saw what kind of shape he was in and still let him do it; that’s pretty moronic in itself. That’s pretty much it though. We had a meeting and we talked about it. He told me he wasn’t doing any kind of drugs and I believed him. Come to find out after the pee test he was right. I didn’t make him do the pee test. The pee test was something that was decided upon not by me, but it was negative and we’re good to go. We’re back in training full on right now. He’ll be here in about an hour kicking butt.

PC: The Wanderlei Silva fight looked like it was in the process of being made. Are you a little disappointed that the fight probably won’t happen now because of his loss to Dan Henderson? 

JH: Very, very. Yeah, it was terrible. I watched the fight and I wasn’t happy at all. Everybody wanted to see that fight. I don’t think there were many happy people out there except for Dan Henderson. Yeah, the fight is no good at all right now.

PC: It doesn’t look like Dana will give Rampage the 2 fights he wanted before he fights Chuck. Do you think Chuck is ready for the Rampage fight?

JH: Way ready. He’s ready tomorrow. He’s really ready. He came back to training as sharp as when he left; his timing, his conditioning, his power, everything is there. He will be more than ready come the end of May.

PC: What did you think of UFC 68?

JH: It was a great show; a lot of good fights. I love Sylvia, but I thought Randy was absolutely masterful. It was unbelievable to watch. I loved it. I hated to see Babalu lose like that, but anybody can get caught. I loved Matt Hughes comeback fight. He showed he is still a champion inside. Rich Franklin looked as strong as I ever seen him. He looked powerful. Yeah, it was a good show. We watched it and I was very impressed; especially with Randy of course.

PC: Are you a big Babalu fan?

JH: Yeah, I love him. I love his personality. In fact he’s going to come out to train with us probably next week. Yeah, we love him.

PC: Do you think we’ll ever see Chuck at heavyweight and if so how would you prepare him for a fight with Cro Cop since it seems to be a lot of interest in that fight?

JH: Yeah, I could see it. I wouldn’t like it right now just because I like him ruling one division. It wouldn’t be too difficult to prepare him for Cro Cop. He’s a great kickboxer and all, but I think Chuck has a couple of tools that he don’t have. I think I can get him ready for Cro Cop pretty easily. Cro Cop’s no bigger than Chuck by the way. He walks around in his mid 220’s. He doesn’t walk around any heavier than Chuck, he must not like to cut I guess. Chuck walks around in the high 220’s. It’s never been too hard of a cut for him to make 205.

PC: Last time we spoke, I asked some of your favorite boxers to watch. Who are some of your favorite MMA guys to watch?

JH: George St. Pierre; love him. BJ Penn, love Jeremy Horn, Matt Lindland of course and Big Nogueira.

PC: I know you mentioned in another interview that you didn’t understand the whole Tommy Morrison situation. Could you speak on that? (John is a Registered Nurse)

JH: For him to test positive and then test negative; I don’t think that’s possible. There was either a mistake in the first test where he tested positive or a mistake in the second test that came up negative. You can’t convert from positive to negative. You can convert from negative to positive. You could go symptom less, you can go into HIV mode, you can have low viral mode and you can increase your viral mode, but once you test positive for HIV, you’ll never test negative. You could go symptom free for years and years. It was either a mistake in the first test or a mistake in the second test, that’s why I don’t understand it. I would’ve turned down that fight real quick.

PC: If you had to single out one thing, what reason would you give for the decline in boxing right now?

JH: I’m not crazy about all the freaking Russians taking over the goddamn heavyweight division. What the hell? It used to be good ol’ black Americans ruling the heavyweight division; now it’s a bunch of freaking Russians. Every time I see one of those (after a couple failed attempts pronouncing their name)

PC: Klitschko!

JH: I can’t believe their beating our own guys. I think MMA is on the rise, too many organizations. They’ve been seeing that for years. I don’t know, maybe the rise of MMA is starting to bring down boxing a little. I can’t think of anything else. Boxers are still good. You still have Sugar Shane; guys like De La Hoya and you still have the classic wars. Dana White and the UFC won’t make certain fights. Sugar Ray Leonard after winning the Olympics and having like 300 amateur fights, his first 20 pro fights were against guys with losing records and tomato cans. After a tough fight, they’ll give a boxer a tomato can to try and build them up. UFC won’t do that. You’re going to fight and it’s going to be a war every time. They believe that’s the way it should be. I still love boxing though. I watched the big Russian a few weeks ago and I was hoping that guy smoked him, but he didn’t.

PC: Tito Ortiz and Dana White supposed to be hooking up and boxing each other on March 24th. Who do you like in that fight?

JH: I’m going to go with Dana. I don’t know why. I just talked to Dana about it not too long ago and I asked was he serious about it or was it a joke and he said, “We’re doing it.” He’s been training pretty hard, so we’ll see.

PC: I appreciate your time John. Thanks!

JH: Alright man, anytime.

Editor’s note: At the time of this interview the Chuck Liddell vs. Rampage Jackson fight wasn’t made yet.


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