John Hackleman Interview

“John you have been kind of the Guru behind Chuck Liddell and a lot of great fighters that have come out the Pit. Tell us about the Pit, about the training and everything you do there? “OTM: We are here with John Hackleman, so John you have been kind of the Guru behind Chuck Liddell and a lot of great fighters that have come out the Pit. Tell us about the Pit, about the training and everything you do there?

Hackleman: The Pit is a really family oriented gym. It’s a Karate gym, we have about 500 hundred students but I just happen to have 8 or so fighters that seem to be excelling. They are all my students in martial arts and we are a martial arts school first but for some reason they are translating well into the MMA world now a days.

OTM: When you say the phrase “Family Oriented” it brings up a good point. We look around and see rumors being started; a lot of hardcore MMA fans talk, Fighters move back and forth from camp to camp. You never hear anything about the Pit, just that it is a great camp and you guys train very hard. Did you start training Chuck and a lot of your MMA fighters from the beginning?

Hackleman: I do not take new guys at my gym; I’m a pretty small and closed gym. I’ve had Chuck for 16 years, so I have had him since the beginning. I’ve had him from his first fight all the way until now; I’ve had Glover since his first fight all the way until now. I’ve had Lightly since his first fight all the way till now. I’ve had Antonio Banuelos from his first fight. We don’t like new guys coming in; we are not just some walk in gym. We are a family gym; we do have people who I like, who like to come down and train with us. Lindland and his guys along with BJ Penn and Caesar Gracie but for the most part the Pit is just a little school that trains guys just like my regular martial arts class.

OTM: Antonio fought this past week, he fought Manny Tapia. Being his trainer, I know he lost via split decision. Tell us your thoughts on the fight?

Hackleman: I thought he could have won with the judges, but I can see both sides. He got hurt in the first round with a really well placed solid knee to the body and he recovered well and he fought really hard even though I knew he was in pain for the rest of the fight. I think it was a close fight, I think he threw more techniques also I believe he got better positioning. To be honest though Tapia was throwing harder techniques so the judges saw it as Tapia ahead so Tapia won a spilt decision. I’m not going to complain about that it was a good call I guess. If I were a judge I would have voted for Antonio but then again he’s my guy so take that with a grain of salt.

OTM: As far as with your fighters is there anything that you push in training? We see a lot of great wrestlers coming out of your camp that are able to mix their strikes very well. What are you doing that gives them the knowledge on how to put it together?

Hackleman: We are a seamless gym, in other words we don’t have seems. We are not broken up into kickboxing one day, wrestling another, Muay Thai one day boxing another. We put it all together, our workouts are combined. Wrestling, striking and conditioning.

OTM: With this last chuck fight, Chuck of course before this fight lost that quick KO to Rampage. He has since then came back with the fight against Silva. A lot of people before this fight were picking Silva to win, but he showed who that old Chuck was. Did you change anything in his training; did you have him do anything different?

Hackleman: He didn’t change his training; I think he was a little more focused. He seemed to get a little more zing back. We did change it a little bit, a little more dynamic training and it just worked out well.

OTM: Is there any new fighters we could be seeing from the Pit that you are bringing into the MMA world?

Hackleman: Yes, we have Glover Teixeira who just had a 5 second KO over Jorge Oliveira he also knocked out Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in the first round. Also we have Scott Lightly K1 a finalist who just won his first MMA fight by first round ground and pound, so I have those two guys coming up. Then I have Luke Britering coming up out of no where then I have Preston Sharp a 155lber that wrestles hard and punches really hard.

OTM: Given the fact you have been behind all your fighters pushing them forward, looking at Chuck you have been with him for 16 years. You have seen from a trainers aspect the sport evolve; tell us your opinion of sport since its creation in 1993 until now.

Hackleman: Umm shit, what is it the second most watched sport in the country after NFL football. It’s unbelievable where it is today and it’s like I said. Chuck has reached actually rockstar status. He did a book signing this morning and there was a line starting from 3am to try and get a signature from Chuck Liddell. So Chuck has reached that rockstar status now and so has the whole sport of MMA.

OTM: Is there anything you would like to say to the Pit fans, possibly a website into Where to find you guys?

Hackleman:, we have an affiliation now. We have 11 Pits around the country; we are starting to affiliate our curriculum and our family out there. So is where it is at

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Christopher Landeros