by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
There was a big elephant in the pressroom at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday and it was a victorious Keith Jardine.
Jardine has repeatedly and publicly said he will not fight Rashad Evans, his teammate at Jackson’s MMA and current UFC light heavyweight champion.
But at the pre-fight Q & A for UFC 96, president Dana White made it clear he wouldn’t tolerate any impasse in the light heavyweight ladder. Though it was clear there hasn’t been a formal sit-down yet, White said the bearded fighter would force his hand if he won against Quinton Jackson.
“Keith Jardine, for him, it will move him up in the ranks, when he will eventually have to fight Rashad Evans, if Rashad Evans keeps
winning and he keeps winning,” said White. “He says they won’t, but I guarantee you they will, and we’ll be making the Rashad Evans/Keith Jardine fight.”
Time, he said, was on his side.
“What happens if Rashad holds the title for the next three years?” White continued. “I’m sure they’re not that good of friends. He’s going
to have to get his shot here soon.”
Faced with an abnormally quiet room of journalists, Jackson jumped into the fray and offered Jardine his support, sort of.
“I feel bad for Jardine, right here,” the former light heavyweight champion said. “Dana said, ‘you gonna make him fight his friend.’ I have friends I train with, and I couldn’t see myself fighting them. I like Jardine and I like Rashad. But Dana’s right, this is mixed martial arts, and it’s a business. So I’m gonna try and help you out. I got your back.”
Jackson gave the fighter a pound in solidarity.
Jardine, unable to hold his tough-guy exterior, smiled as he stepped up to the podium.
“Thanks for looking out for me, man,” he said. “I couldn’t say yes to this fight fast enough, because I could match myself up against one of the greatest of all time. We’ll see how it goes.”
For the last three years, it’s gone well for the UFC in Columbus. Despite the wintry economy, ticket sales were tallied at 11,000 on Monday (according to Yahoo! Sports), a number that will undoubtedly rise as the Arnold Classic bodybuilding competition and fitness expo, and state wrestling championships swing into full effect. Ticket prices, according to the report, have been lowered to accommodate the tough times.
Bernie Profato, executive director of the Ohio State Athletic Commission, said the number of MMA events in the state went from six in 2004 to 132 in 2008 with the UFC’s explosion in popularity. Afterwards, he gave White a lifetime matchmaking license in Ohio.
For fans who said this weekend’s card was light on talent, the UFC president pointed to last month’s UFC 95, which took the same
“You can’t stack cards. When you’re doing as many fights as we do, cards aren’t stacked,” he said. “At the end of the day, fight fans want to see good fights. Just like the card from London. Everybody was claiming that card was – and when I say everybody, I’m talking about four retards on the Internet – the card wasn’t stacked enough. The card was awesome.”