Most fighters in the industry know it as an unspoken rule, but Zuffa officials love fighters who will step up and help save a fight card when injury strikes or something pops up on late notice that requires someone take a chance.
Throughout Keith Jardine‘s long career from his days in King of the Cage to his stint on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter to his recent Strikeforce fights, he’s always been the fighter willing to say “yes.”
As UFC 96 fast approached and no main event had been named, the UFC picked Rampage as one of the fighters, but they needed an opponent, so they called Jardine.
When Strikeforce needed an opponent on eight days notice for Gegard Mousasi after Mike Kyle suffered an injury in training, they called Jardine.
And when Tim Kennedy was injured and unable to take a title fight against Luke Rockhold in January and Strikeforce was desperate for a main event, they called Jardine once again.
Why did they call Jardine so often? Because he was a performer and fighter that always showed up, that always gave it his all, and left his heart and soul inside the cage. He was the fighter who always said yes.
But after the loss to Rockhold, Jardine decided he needed to take some serious time to reflect. Throughout his nearly 11 year pro career, Jardine has never taken any long stretches of time away from the sport, and after suffering a devastating knockout loss to Rockhold in January, he decided it was long past time to step away from active competition.
“I’m taking a little bit of time off working on a few things back here, trying to get healthy, and I’m not sure when I’m going to come back and fight yet, but I’m not going to do it until I feel like I’m 100-percent healthy and ready to go,” Jardine told MMAWeekly.com.
“I feel like I didn’t show up in that last fight. That’s the first time ever in my career I felt like I was just kind of a shell of myself. I should have had a test fight first, but how can you turn down a title fight? I’m going to stay the course, I’m going to give it another shot and see what happens.”
The test fight Jardine was speaking about was a first attempt at cutting down to 185 pounds after spending almost his entire career fighting at 205 pounds. Sure, the cut was hard, but Jardine counts the loss to Rockhold as his house of cards that came tumbling down.
“Right now in my career, realistically I have to take things one fight at a time, and in my last fight I don’t think I gave all of myself. I think I held a lot back and I need to be in a position where I can give 100-percent,” Jardine stated.
This may be the first time ever that if the UFC or Strikeforce came calling right now, Jardine may actually say no to a fight.
“Now I’m in a weird position because for maybe for the first time in six years, ever since I was fighting in the UFC, I’m not interested to jump in a fight. I haven’t been 100-percent healthy in a long time, and just really want to concentrate on myself a little bit,” Jardine commented.
The road back to the cage is going to be a long and winding one, but it won’t be something Jardine will jump into blindly. He’s getting back to his roots, traveling around to a few different gyms to see what new tricks he can learn, and most importantly he’s letting his body heal up for maybe the first time since he started fighting in 2001.
“I’m training a lot of different places. I spent some time with Rashad (Evans) down in Florida. I spent some time up at Renzo’s (Gracie) in New York. I’m just really going to take this time to mix it up and when I feel like I’m ready to go give 100-percent, I’m going to go do it,” Jardine said.
“That fight two fights ago when I fought (Gegard) Mousasi, I fought on eight days notice and I was out of shape, but one thing I was confident in was I gave everything I had. I didn’t come away with that feeling in my last fight.”
Does Jardine see a light at the end of the tunnel as far as his fight career goes? That is yet to be determined, but if there’s one thing Keith Jardine can guarantee, it’s when he says yes to his next fight, he will leave everything – his heart, his soul and everything he can give – in the cage.
“If it is my last fight my next fight, I’ll know I gave 100 percent and I gave all of myself,” said Jardine.
“Usually they know whenever they want me I’ll fight, and this is the first time where I want to wait until I’m ready to go out there and put it all on the line.”