Up close and personal: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson rarely holds back. | Photo: Judy Eddy/WENN
Few mixed martial artists have accomplished more than the man they call “Rampage.” At 32, Quinton Ramone Jackson has defeated legends, summited figurative mountaintops, starred in a blockbuster motion picture and competed at the sport’s highest level in one of its deepest divisions for the better part of the decade. Where others have come and gone, he has remained.
Jackson will put one of MMA’s most enduring résumés to the test once more when he meets “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 semifinalist Matt Hamill in the UFC 130 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. A decisive victory there could again put him in position to challenge for the 205-pound championship, a belt he once held for more than a year.
In the weeks leading up to the bout, Jackson’s drive -- or lack thereof -- has been called into question. He has at times seems disinterested with business inside the cage and preoccupied with opportunities outside it.
“That’s a big misconception,” he says.
Jackson co-starred in the 2010 hit “The A-Team” -- which rang up nearly $200 million at the box office internationally -- and has made no secret of his desire to pursue a career in Hollywood, where his personality seems to fit like a glove. For Jackson, it sounds more like a retirement plan.
“Yes, I want to do movies after I get done fighting. You can’t fight till you’re 60,” he says. “If anybody’s smart, they want to have an extra plan for MMA or any full-contact sport. You can tell which fans are smart and which fans are kind of ignorant. What’s after fighting? What are you going to do then? Just run away? I don’t understand what they think.”
Jackson claims public perception has no impact on him.
“That stuff don’t bother me at all -- what they say or what they think,” he says. “It’s my life. It’s my family that I take care of. I have my goals and my things that I want to do to make me happy. That’s all I really care about; me and my family. The fans -- I’m here to entertain them. Do I care about them the way I care about myself and my family? Hell no.”
Costly Decision, No Regrets
Jackson, who has puddle jumped between training camps throughout his career, has entrusted UFC veteran Lance Gibson with preparing him for each of his last three fights, including his controversial split decision over Lyoto Machida at UFC 123 in November.
Gibson -- who operates Gibson Kickboxing and Pankration in Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada -- has no qualms about cracking the whip in training, even on someone as prominent and accomplished as Jackson.
“I think that’s why he hired me,” Gibson says. “He knows I’m not a yes man. He knows I’ve accomplished a lot of things in life, and I don’t fold. It’s challenging. It’s psychological warfare. He might not like [the training] while it’s going on, but he likes it come fight night.”
Gibson joined forces with Jackson while the former light heavyweight champion was on location with “The A-Team” in Canada. The two had known one another for nearly 10 years.
“He called me up, and we started working on the Thai pads,” Gibson says, “and he said, ‘Hey, this is what I need.’ I’ve been training him ever since.”
Their partnership began with a defeat to archrival Rashad Evans in May 2010, but their first true training camp together came at UFC 123. There, with aggression as his primary weapon, Jackson controlled the center of the cage and kept Machida’s back to the fence for the better part of two rounds. He invited the clinch and scored from close range with uppercuts, knees to the body and foot stomps, earning a split decision from the judges.
Machida was another in a lengthy list of high-caliber foes Jackson has turned away. They include UFC hall of famer Chuck Liddell (twice), Brazilian icon Wanderlei Silva and former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Dan Henderson, against whom Jackson unified the world’s two most prestigious 205-pound belts in 2007. On the surface, such achievements themselves are remarkable enough; they are made even more impressive when one considers the possibility that Jackson, as some contend, has never fully given himself to MMA.
Commitment to training has never been a strong suit.
“I think he enjoys the night of the fight and the battle,” Gibson says. “It’s the training and dieting he doesn’t enjoy. He’s the only guy who fights at this high a level and doesn’t train when he doesn’t have a fight. Sometimes when I get him, he hasn’t done anything [between fights], and he’s beating guys like Machida like that.”
Still, Jackson pays a price for his hot-and-cold regimen. In February, when Evans went down with a knee injury, Jackson was offered a five-round title fight against then champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua -- a man who had soundly defeated him under the Pride banner in April 2005. Jackson declined, citing the fact that he was out of shape, ill-prepared and incapable of meeting the 205-pound threshold. In his stead, Jon Jones seized on the opportunity, steamrolled Rua at UFC 128 and ascended to the top of the light heavyweight division.
“I’m a fighter. I’ve been fighting for a long time, and I have common sense,” Jackson says. “I knew Shogun was going to have ring rust after taking a long time off for [his knee] injury, but there’s no way I could have took a fight on four or five weeks’ notice with how much weight I gain between fights. It’s no secret that I put on weight between fights. I wouldn’t have even been able to make weight, so it would have been stupid for me to even try to do that.
“The first time I fought Shogun, I was injured, and I always thought the second time I fought him [that] I wanted to be as close to 100 percent as possible,” he adds. “That’s the main reason why I turned down that fight. I don’t regret it at all.”
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