It’s not very often that a fighter making their debut at a weight class will get a title shot, but when Keith Jardine got the call from Strikeforce asking if he’d like to take on middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, it didn’t take him long to answer.
“It took me about two seconds to say yes,” Jardine told MMAWeekly Radio recently.
The former Ultimate Fighter competitor and one-time UFC light heavyweight contender was offered the shot after announcing he’d be moving to 185 pounds, even though he still has yet to actually fight in the weight class.
Of course there has been criticism of the move by both fans and media, and that’s why Jardine has paid attention to none of that. Since receiving his fight contract, Jardine has avoided all of the websites and even his own Twitter account because he wanted only positivity leading into the fight with Rockhold.
If you are one of the people saying that Jardine doesn’t deserve the shot, he’s got a simple response for you.
“I feel this is a result of all my hard work in my career and what I’ve done. I’m sure I wasn’t the first choice to fight for the title. I think they wanted (Tim) Kennedy first, but like always I’m the guy that never says no to a fight and why would I?” said Jardine.
“To the people saying that I don’t deserve to be there and all that, we’ll see (on Jan. 7). We’ll see.”
Throughout his long MMA career, Jardine has never been a fighter that backs down from a challenge. Whenever the UFC called him, Jardine was always the guy that said yes and then asked who he was fighting.
He’s fought many past champions, but never held the gold himself. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, and that haunts Jardine to his core.
“In my career I’ve fought so many guys, so many world champions and I’ve done well, but I never fought for the title myself. I’ve always said my career wouldn’t be complete until I had the opportunity and now it’s like a gift,” Jardine said. “I’ve been given the opportunity and I’m not going to waste it.”
Over the last several months, Jardine has not only lost weight and got into the best condition of his career, he’s also revamped his training. As one of the original members of Team Jackson/Winkeljohn in New Mexico, Jardine has always had some of the best training and coaching in the sport.
But like any other job, Jardine got burnt out and fell into some bad habits over the years. He believes now he’s been woken up and he’s back to being a complete mixed martial artist.
Don’t be surprised to see a takedown or submission attempt from Jardine, something he was far removed from his his last days with the UFC.
“This is a different Keith Jardine, and I feel like I’m ready to climb to the top of the world in the middleweight rankings and that’s my goal. I feel like I’m reinvigorated and excited. I feel like I got caught in a little bit of a rut and now I’ve broken through,” Jardine stated.
“It was a good thing that the UFC fired me and I had to hit rock bottom there. Fighting in the Dominican Republic in front of 100 people and not getting paid and to come to this point and to experience a kind of rebirth.”
It really all does come full circle for Jardine on Saturday night. It was just over six years ago when Jardine made his official UFC debut in the same location he’ll now fight for the Strikeforce middleweight belt.
“I’m fighting in a place where I started it all. Kerry Schall at The Ultimate Fighter Finale in the Hard Rock,” said Jardine. “It just seems like it’s all meant to be.”