by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
By Dana White’s account, UFC 96 was Quinton Jackson’s last test before facing off with light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans this summer. But that was before a nagging knee injury took interim heavyweight champ Frank Mir from his rematch with heavyweight champ Brock esnar at UFC 98.
White heard the news in Columbus, and spent the next hours confirming it, with matchmaker Joe Silva in one ear, giving updates, and Rashad Evans in the other, interviewing people.
Saturday’s fight did not put the UFC president in an awkward position. Jackson edged Keith Jardine in a hard-fought decision; the stage was set. The only problem was May. They were short a main event.
After the fight, White gave Jackson the happy news he may need to do another quick turnaround to save the May 23 show in Las Vegas. It would be the former champ’s third fight in five months.
“He’s really excited and thrilled,” quipped White at the post-fight presser for the Columbus, Ohio event.
Jackson, while excited to face Evans, was non-committal about whether he’d be ready for UFC 98 in May.
“I want my belt back,” he proclaimed. “I’ve got to talk to my manager, see if everything’s cool. I’ll tell Dana in a couple of days.”
For the first time in his career, Jackson felt he’d burned out prior to the fight. The road wear from a long camp over the pond at the Wolfslair took its toll in the first round.
“I’ve been training really hard,” he explained. “I felt like I was a little bit over-trained tonight. I could feel it in my training camp. I want to be the best I could be and I want to show the world that I am one of the best fighters in the world. I don’t want to be one of these fighters that just gets the win… I want to knock people the hell out.”
In the case that Jackson was not ready to fight, White said he had a back-up plan.
“We’re still going to make sure Quinton is 100-percent,” he said. “It’s not a done deal. Quinton’s got to go – he’s got to get some things checked out, make sure he’s 100-percent healthy, and if he is, that will be the fight. If he’s not, it will be Lyoto Machida.”
Machida has already accepted the bout, according to White.
As the press conference closed, Jackson was hopeful for the shot at the title in May. “You know, I’d do anything for Dana. I’m just sitting here thinking, most likely, my black ass will be up in the mountains training in the next two weeks.”
White interjected, “If he feels like he can’t take this fight, we don’t want him to take this fight.”
Jackson left it leaning towards a May 23 date with Evans, however, saying, ” I’m gonna try though.”