John “The Pit Master” Hackleman has been a staple of MMA since its inception. A tenth degree black belt in both Hawaiian Kenpo and Kajukenbo, Hackleman moved from Hawaii to California in 1985 to open The Pit that now operates in Arroyo Grande, CA. Now there’s the Pit Elevated in Utah and a new location in Henderson, NV, and the New York native and former Golden Gloves boxer is responsible for developing some of what he calls MMA’s “baddest dudes”.
Among the many high level fighters he’s trained is none other than UFC Hall of Famer, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. Currently, Hackleman works with UFC Fighters Ramsey Nijem, Court McGee, and Glover Teixeira just to name a few. His son John Hackleman, Jr., who has trained alongside his father since he was five years old, recently won his fight in Tuff-N-Uff in Las Vegas with a first round standing guillotine.
Eleven years ago today, Hackleman met one of today’s top-ranked light heavyweights in the UFC at a WEC event where he lost to a Pit fighter. At WEC 3, Glover Teixeira met Eric Swartz (a former training partner of Chuck Liddell’s) on June 7, 2002 and lost by way of TKO in the second round. It was Teixeira’s MMA debut.
After the fight, John went to congratulate Glover on a well fought battle. It was then that Teixeira asked if he could join the team. His energy, personality, won Hackleman over.and he was welcomed into The Pit’s “Ohana”, a Hawaiian word meaning family.
“We’re more into personalities and having fun than who’s going to be the baddest dude, but it just so happens that we get a lot of the baddest dudes. We just love Glover.”
22 fights later, Teixeira still works with “The Pit Master”. Though he suffered one more loss since working with Hackleman, Glover hasn’t lost since 2005. In fact, he’s on a 19-fight win streak.
Since being signed to the UFC, Teixeira’s defeated four opponents. In his debut, he submitted Kyle Kingsbury. Next, he battered Fabio Maldonado forcing the doctors to call a stop to the fight between the second and third rounds. After that, he took home a signature win by defeating Rampage Jackson. And at UFC 160, he finished James Te Huna with a guillotine in the first round.
Teixeira lives in Connecticut and will often train with American Top Team or other gyms when need be. From time to time, Hackleman admits that he needs to enlist the help of others to keep his athletes evolving. Luckily, he and ATT’s head trainer, Ricardo Liborio, are good friends who assist each other.
“I have a little mom and pop martial arts school in a little rural area with a small population and it’s a one man show. I love doing it, but I’m a mom and pop fitness school owner. I happen to do fighters on the side and when they get really, really big, I need help,” Hackleman said.
Undoubtedly, Teixeira’s career is on the rise. If he can keep his streak going, perhaps he’s about two more wins away from a title shot. The skills Glover possesses and his proven ability to execute under pressure combine to make him one of the more dangerous men competing in the game.
With Jon Jones reigning as the 205-pound weight division’s champ, Hackleman gave his take on whether or not Teixeira could be the man to usurp him.
“I think Jon Jones is great. I think anyone’s beatable. A couple of people have come close, maybe if that armbar was a little better from Vitor, or if Lyoto stayed a little more aggressive with his punches, anybody can get beat,” Hackleman said. “If anybody could hit him in the chin just right that would be one thing. Vitor came pretty close, caught him in a submission. I think Glover can beat anyone because he has such hard hitting that that could change any aspect of any fight ’cause he has that one-punch knockout power.
“Anyone can knock anyone out if they get hit just right, but some people just have that one-punch knockout power and its easier for them to knock people out,” Hackleman continued. “And then, he’s a really good wrestler, has unbelievable jiu jitsu, black belt and multiple tournament winner. To top it off he’s a beast when it comes to conditioning. He’s going to be a hard guy to beat, but Jon Jones is as well. It would definitely be an interesting match up and I think Glover would love to take that fight.”
Hackleman has cornered fighters since 1970 and describes his method of instruction as “hardcore” and “old school”. Instilling that into his students and being able to watch them ascend to great things is the pay off. But of course, putting in the physical effort isn’t everything, no matter how gifted the athlete.
“Nothing’s going to take the place of hard constant work,” Hackleman said. “Constantly drilling, hard, laborious work, nothing takes that place. You just have to have the mental aspect.”
Listen to the full interview with “The Pit Master” here: