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Fighters Only  Exclusive: Wolfslair boss talks Rampage deal

Following our exclusive report that Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson has signed with the Wolfslair, Fighters Only spoke with gym boss Anthony McGann to discuss how the deal came about.

“Quinton’s relationship with us started when he was brought over to the north of England a couple of years ago for a seminar that fell through. The Wolfslair stepped in and sorted hotel rooms out for everyone, then let them do the seminar in our academy,” he explains.

“He came over and we did a split camp for when he fought Dan Henderson...  we also had Cheick Kongo with us and we had Mike (Bisping) fighting Matt Hamill.

“Half the camp was in Big Bear and half was in England.  Quinton and Cheick actually lived with me for a month and we became really good friends.

“He’s come to us, one because we are his friends and two because he knows what a good operation we run. He’s also seen how well Mike has been performing recently and how well conditioned he has been.

“There is no big conspiracy or anything here, he just wanted a change in his training situation and he  chose us.”

Some have suggested that Jackson won’t be accessing top level coaching when he trains in the UK, but McGann strongly disputes that.

“He’s very appreciative of our boxing coach Tony Quigley and his son Tony Quigley Jr,” he says. Young Tony won a gold medal when he competed in the Junior Olympics. “He took Young Tony down to London in the week before the Dan Henderson fight to sharpen his hands, because Tony is that good.”

“Quinton is also keen to work with the Sukata brothers, who are the jiu jitsu coaches at Wolfslair. Dave Jackson, our Thai coach, has spent the most time with Quinton out of all our coaches and Quinton loves his style of Muay Thai.”

With Jackson being a huge name and elite-level fighter, do the Wolfslair feel they have the expertise to handle his career from now on? Absolutely, says McGann.

“Managing Mike over the past few years, we have learned the business at a breakneck speed,” he explains. “We work very well with the UFC and in the world of sponsorship we have learned very well and we can compete with any of the guys in America in terms of obtaining sponsorship and brokering deals.”

McGann puts the continuing successes of the Wolfslair camp down to “our humble perspective on things”.

“Me and Lee (Gwynne) are partners in Wolfslair. I do most of the talking and he is very hands-on with the guys, he does a lot of the strength and conditioning,” he reveals.

“Lee never trumpets himself as a great strength and conditioning coach, even though he is. He’s always trying to improve. He spends every night reading every article he can on improving cardiovascular fitness and so on.

“And me as a manger, I always have the thought in my head that I am not the best manager around, which means I am always trying to improve myself. That goes for everyone of our coaches and fighters. When you think you are great, you usually aren’t.

“It is the guy who is striving to be great who usually does the best.”

That said, McGann is by no means painting the Wolfslair as some poor relation to the bigger teams in the mixed martial arts game.

“When Quinton came over for the Dan Henderson camp and he had Kongo with him and four or five other guys, we were a bit daunted by this big American team,” he recalls.

“But our guys trained with them, and our guys were taking them down at will. Quinton said to me “Anthony, you don’t even realise how strong your team is. Your guys are badass.

“We always thought we were doing a half-decent job but now, when we compare ourselves to how the Americans are doing it, we seem to be ahead of the game in terms of management and sponsorship and even training,” he says.

Signing Rampage is another step on a journey that has seen Wolfslair grow from a group of friends training together on hired mats to an emerging force in international MMA.

Since Michael Bisping won series three of The Ultimate Fighter and won, the team has “grown and grown”.

“We are doing main events regularly, we’re getting top sponsorship, we have a great relationship with Dana White and Joe Silva... it’s a fairytale,” laughs McGann.

“We are UFC fans and we started out with MMA as a hobby. Now, we’re filling UK arenas. And let me tell you, there is nothing like walking out with one of your guys - 20,000 people going nuts and you are at the centre of it. It’s a dream come true.”

John Joe O’Regan