When the Ultimate Fighting Championship announced it would hold an event in Japan for the first time in nearly 12 years, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson knew he wanted to be on the UFC 144 fight card.
Jackson made a name for himself competing in the Japanese-based Pride Fighting Championships. He fought under the Pride banner for more than five years (2001-2006) accumulating highlight reel finishes and his two epic battles with Wanderlei Silva made him a fan favorite.
“I’m really excited about going back to Japan, there’s no secret about that. I love that place. I think I was so popular in Japan because of my fight style. I was young and I didn’t care. I just wanted to put on fights for the crowd and they love that type of stuff,” Jackson said recently.
“It’s a no-brainer. The UFC is going back to Japan and I got my big break in Japan. I wanted to be there,” he added. “I couldn’t just say it was on my bucket list, but you know what I’m saying, it was a no-brainer that UFC is putting on a show in Japan and I wanted to be on that card.”
For Jackson, it wasn’t just about returning to Japan to complete at least one more time in front of the rabid combat sports culture there. Returning to fight in Japan is personal to Jackson.
“It’s very important to me personally. My kids are from Japan; my kids’ grandparents are from there. They’ve never really watched me fight back in the day, and I’ve got a lot of experience in Japan,” said the former UFC light heavyweight titleholder.
“I really miss the fans; I’m not going to lie. I really miss fighting there. So it was something personal for me. My two younger kids can come watch me fight and the in-laws can be in the crowd and watch me fight. I never had that before, so it is something that I want to do.”
With his fighting roots in Japan and his popularity there, it was a “no-brainer” to put Jackson in the line-up, but it wasn’t that simple. He had to lobby the UFC to be included on the UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson fight card.
“Well, my manager has informed me not to go into that. That could get me in trouble with some people at the UFC. You guys know I had to fight (to get) on this card. That’s all I can go into,” said Jackson on the UFC 144 Japan media conference call.
“I had to fight to be on this card and complain and bitch to my manager. Now I think the representatives of the UFC are upset with me a little bit, but ask me do I care,” said Jackson at a UFC 144 promotional press conference in December.
At the end of the day, Jackson is on the card and facing Ryan Bader. It didn’t come without some behind-the-scenes negotiations and hardball, but sometimes that’s what it takes when something is personal to you.