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COACHES PROUD OF FIGHTER

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By Patrick Lujan

MACAU-After making weight for his lightweight fight in UFC Macao, Jon Tuck got a chance to fill his hunger for dinner with close friends and family.

Marcos Oliveira and Jeff Clark will be cornering Jon Tuck at UFC Macao along with Brian Bamba. (photo by Lloyd Cubacub)

Two men who will corner Tuck are long-time mentor Marcos Oliveira and MMA coach Jeff Clark.

Oliveira has seen the rise of Tuck since his career started six years ago.

“I was driving around his old Sentra and he was training for his first MMA fight,” Oliviera said. “For that group (of Guam fighters), you can tell he was different.”

“I never did this in my life as a coach, but I told his mom that I think you’re son has potential to be a pro fighter. Let him quit his job and invest in him.”

Oliveira, a black belt jiu-jitsu world champion, cornered Tuck in his first two fights in Tempun Gera. He said he respects Tuck the most as a person because at that time on Guam, “the people trying to do MMA there were (not very nice).”

It was then when Oliveira encouraged Tuck to take his jiu-jitsu training to Abu Dhabi where Tuck would become a blue belt world champion in 2010, winning 11 matches on his march to the title.

“This island boy went there and became a world champion.”

After about a year away from MMA concentrating on jiu-jitsu, Tuck got back into the cage.

His connection with fellow Guam fighter Joe Duarte in San Diego had him cross paths with his new MMA coach Jeff Clark from The Arena MMA, who has cornered fighters in more than 60 UFC fights.

“For me, you could definitely tell he’s talented,” Clark said. “There’s a lot of guys who are standard fighters, but he’s unique because he does things a little bit out of the box but very creative. I can see right from the very first time we trained.”

Clark was also instrumental in getting Tuck in the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter.

“I talked to Joe Silva (UFC matchmaker) about him, that’s when we brought him out to try out for the TUF show. They told me that he was one of the favorite picks to win the whole show. Obviously, when his toe dislocated it changed everything.

Jeff Clark has cornered more than 60 UFC fights dating back to UFC 40. (photo by Lloyd Cubacub)

“I told him, that’s the best way to take a loss because you get the feeling of a loss but it’s not officially a loss.”

The last six weeks, Tuck was back at The Arena MMA to fine tune his game for his Chinese opponent, to include striking sessions with fellow Guamanian Vince Salvador.

“It was a very specific camp just for this opponent,” Clark said. “Jon is very good at defending the guillotine (which his opponent is known for). K.J. Noons, Toby Imada, Pat Speight and Duarte were doing rounds with him.”

Clark, who has been teaching striking for 27 years and is a black belt jiu-jitsu practitioner himself, said that Tuck is a quick learner.

“He learns very fast. I taught him some high-level jiu-jitsu, I showed him once and he did it the next day where sometimes it takes people months to pick it up and actually use it. It was nice to see how fast he picks things up.”

Clark has cornered the likes of Dominic Cruz, Roger Huerta, Travis Brown, Jason Lambert, Eddie Sanchez, Joey Beltran, Noons and Duarte.

He sees a bright future for Tuck.

“His ability is pretty special. I believe that if his path is done in the right order (getting more experience in the Octagon), he has the ability to wear the belt one day.”

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