When Rashad Evans steps into the cage to settle the score against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson on Saturday in Las Vegas, he’ll have the usual familiar faces in his corner. One will be Greg Jackson, who has the task, along with Trevor Wittman, of guiding the one-time “Ultimate Fighter” winner into his most personal battle to date.
While Jackson has been noticeably absent on the last two “UFC Primetime” specials, he assures everyone that he has been molding Evans’ game plan for the past few months. He’s also witnessed the tremendous amount of borderline trash-talking that has been flung around by both Evans and Jackson in recent weeks. As for the level of sincerity behind Evans’ harsh words, you’ll have to ask the former champ himself.
“You would have to ask Rashad that,” Jackson said when questioned on last Friday’s “Beatdown” show about Evans’ level of legitimate hatred toward Rampage. “I do know that [trash-talking] is a tool that has been used by a lot of people before. You have Muhammad Ali calling Floyd Patterson an “Uncle Tom” before their fight for example. How fighters conduct themselves is nothing new. They have the responsibility of selling fights, but you’d have to ask Rashad how personal that is.
“I don’t think it’s that serious. I think it’s just a tool to get in [Rampage’s] head. It has nothing to do with race. Again, you have a tradition of that kind of stuff -- people claiming that their opponents aren’t true Mexicans or stuff like that. It’s been going on for years. Rashad is so smart. People don’t really understand how smart this guy is. He knows better than to get emotional or heated about it. I think he’s going to be all business at fight time. I’m not worried at all about him getting drawn in and trying to knock Rampage out in 15 seconds. He’s a real sharp and careful guy.”
Jackson admits that “UFC Primetime” gives not only the fans but also coaches and the fighters themselves a unique look inside a training camp. Careful editing prevents any important strategies from being leaked, but that doesn’t mean Jackson and company haven’t been watching regardless.
“You do it just to see what they are working on,” Jackson said of watching the show. “Of course, it’s edited so you can’t get a lot, but you can see the timing and the type of training that’s going on. You’re trying to use any kind of resource you can.
“We’re very careful about it though. The cameramen know when to film and when not to film. We can say, ‘Listen, this is game plan stuff’ and they know to walk away. Usually it’s pretty straightforward -- most of these guys are really good. They’re looking for more of the drama for the most part. They aren’t going to give all of your secrets away and then let you get your butt kicked in the fight. That’s just not going to happen.”
Evans and his camp have made no secret about the fact they are preparing to face the best Rampage they could possibly go up against. Despite being out of action for over a year now, Jackson and his associates believe that ring rust may not affect Rampage, who has shown a high-level of dedication to training as of late.
“You can’t go in thinking about that. It’s pointless,” Jackson said of Rampage’s layoff. “If he’s not the best Rampage ever, that will make our strategy that much better. If he’s Rampage as usual, then it’ll be business as usual. As soon as you can go in there and say, ‘Oh, Rampage had a year off,’ you get yourself in trouble. I think we’re going to run into the best Rampage we’ve ever seen and I hope that’s the case, because we have the best Rashad anyone has ever seen.
“We want to make sure that we’ve addressed all of the contingencies that can happen. Rampage is a powerful striker. He’s a pretty good wrestler. He’s a savvy veteran who knows when to relax a bit and then come right back. I have a lot of respect for him. However, I’m pretty confident in Rashad’s kickboxing ability. Rampage is an excellent boxer, it’s true, but Rashad is good as well and I’m always going to bet on my guy.”