The animosity between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans is at an all-time high.
Despite their much-anticipated showdown being less than two weeks away, the former UFC light heavyweight champions are set to throw down at any given moment, much like they were during their time as coaches on season ten of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show on Spike TV last fall.
Jackson and Evans spent the majority of Tuesday’s UFC 114 “Rampage vs. Evans” teleconference call barking back and forth about the issues behind their hatred for each other. Things were tense from the start, but really opened up once Jackson claimed that a fight against Evans is a step backwards for him.
“A win over Rashad would be like a moral victory for me,” Jackson said. “Rashad doesn’t have a title. He couldn’t even hold onto the belt. It’s almost like I’m asking myself why I’m even fighting this guy. But then I did ‘TUF’ and now I know why. If you aren’t on the same level as someone, you should keep your mouth shut. This guy isn’t on my level. I defended my title. I don’t like the way he talks to me. He’s real fake and real cocky. For someone who hasn’t really done much in this sport…”
“Who am I to fight him? Who the (expletive) is he to fight me? I beat Forrest (Griffin), you lost to him,” interrupted Evans. “Just because you’re black, stop acting stupid. I can’t stand that attitude. Rampage does his same old thing like black-on-black crime. He just acts like he doesn’t know what’s going on for comedy. I’ve talked to him before. He’s a smart guy. He just acts stupid.”
“At the end of the day on May 29, you know that you’re getting your ass kicked,” Jackson responded. “You go home and open your own gym and coach because you’re a good coach. You ain’t a fighter, homie. A guy like you with a glass jaw shouldn’t be talking as much as you are talking.”
“I have a glass jaw? I remember you getting rocked with a straight right hand going up against the cage against (Keith) Jardine,” Evans said. “You got a glass jaw. You’ve been knocked out many times and you were on queer street when you fought Jardine. You’re going to quit. What about the ‘Shogun’ (Mauricio Rua) fight? You quit. You sat in the corner and gave up. You were still talking while you were asleep.”
“When I fought Jardine, I had a hurt jaw. That’s why I took that time off,” Jackson countered. “You were on queer street a long time when you fought (Thiago) Silva. You had jiggly legs and all. It was like you were gettin’ jiggy with it.”
The dislike Jackson and Evans have for one another stems all the way back to their first meeting in 2004, when Evans was just starting his professional career. Evans was part of a two-night heavyweight tournament being put on by the Gladiator Challenge promotion, while Jackson was in town to corner another tournament participant, training partner and UFC veteran Hector Ramirez.
“I met Rashad back in the day when he was fighting in Gladiator Challenge,” said Jackson. “He fought Hector Ramirez and Hector broke his ankle in the cage and Rashad was dancing around, playing with his nipples like he still does now. After the fight he came to me and was like ‘Yo man, I want to come train with you’ but he was talking (expletive) on my teammate and dancing around so I said no. (Rashad) knocked out some fat guy with a head kick before fighting Hector and his head just inflated. And then when I fought Jardine he commentated my fight and was talking all bad about me and my game.”
Evans revealed that Jackson was actually his favorite fighter before the encounter and noted that even though all of the hard feelings are ever-present, an underlying theme of mutual respect still remains.
“When I met Rampage, he was my favorite fighter. I looked up to him,” Evans said. “When he lost to Wanderlei (Silva) in Japan, that kind of crushed me because I was like ‘Damn, that’s my dude’. You always have to respect someone that you fight. Both guys kind of leave their spirit out their in the cage and stuff. That’s something you can always respect.”
UFC President Dana White echoed Evans’ sentiments.
“These kind of fights happen every once in a while,” said White. “Don’t fool yourself, this is the fight game. Sometimes the guys who fight each other… they just don’t like each other. These guys don’t and it is what it is. There’s that WWE stuff when the guys are out there trying to hype it up and make it look that way, but these guys seriously don’t like each other. It doesn’t get anymore real than this. These are two guys that generally want to fight each other because they don’t like one another.
“But I’ll be honest with you, and they’ll probably both deny it right now, but the thing is that they both respect each other in ways, but they still don’t like each other. When this fight is over, they may squash this. When this fight is over, they might still hate each other. You never know how this goes. But the respect is there.”
Also during the teleconference call:
• White briefly touched on Jackson’s apparent unhappiness with the UFC: “Rampage is very opinionated. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve been very fair with a lot of people. Me and my partners in this business have made a lot of people a lot of money. Rampage killed it in this “A-Team” movie and he’s going to make a lot of money. I want a piece of his second film.”
• Jackson on staying busy during his time away from MMA: “I fought a couple of fights back-to-back and I was kind of worn out after that. Now my body is doing really good and I’m able to train harder. I hurt my jaw a week before the Wanderlei Silva fight and then I had to fight Jardine right after that so I was hurting. My jaw is good now but I really needed that time off. I trained as much as I could while I was filming the movie. I brought Tom Blackledge up there and he worked with me. I trained and ran and did what I could do to stay in the game.”
• Evans has experienced success against opponents that training partner Keith Jardine has lost to: “Part of the reason why I’ve done well against a lot of guys that Jardine faces is because we’ve had the opportunity to go at in our training camps so I get a pretty good idea of what to expect based on what he tells me. I was cageside when Jardine fought Quinton so I have a good idea of what he’s going to come with, when he’s going to roll and stuff like that.”
• White said that there was very little hesitancy in pairing Jackson and Evans together: “This was the fight. These guys both coached on ‘TUF’ and not only do I think everybody wants this fight, but I know these two want this fight really bad. If you can’t see that, I don’t know what to tell you. The day that they walked on the set, they don’t like each other. It all worked out though. Quinton did a huge movie… this thing is going to be a big movie and we’re happy for him and after all that, we still think that the fans want to see this fight, so I’m excited. When you get two of the best in the world fighting, it’s always fun, but when you get two guys of that caliber that really don’t like each other, it’s great.”
• Jackson claims that training for Evans has resulted in his best camp to date: “I’m not underestimating Rashad at all. This is going to be a good test for me. I underestimated Forrest, didn’t train properly for him and came into the fight overweight. I’ve learned my lesson over and over again and I think it has prepared for me now, when everything counts. I haven’t trained that hard in the past but I’ve really done the work this time. I used to think that my camp for Wanderlei was the hardest, but this is it. I’ve really pushed myself and I’m proud of myself because I’m known as a guy that’s not very good in the gym. I suck in the gym, but this time, I’ve really worked hard and I’m already proud of myself.”
• Evans brought Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal into his camp: “It was a connection that I already had. Me and Mo have been cool since college. He’s got the best takedowns in the sport and the best wrestling too, so I wanted to work with him for this fight. If I want to take Rampage down 100 times, I want to be able to do that.”