by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
The rematch was set. The crowd and viewers eagerly waited. The UFC enjoyed increased coverage by mainstream media. The fighters were ready.
Last Saturday evening, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson stunned fans by knocking out the most dominant light heavyweight in the UFC. A single right hook preceded unanswered strikes on the ground, forcing referee John McCarthy to end one of the most anticipated rematches in recent history.
Quinton Jackson is the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. He has seemingly put an end to Chuck Liddell’s dominance of the 205-pound division. “Rampage” has left a lasting impression in the octagon.
“I made a mistake and he capitalized on it, I don’t know what else to say,” stated Liddell. “Nothing’s changed. I’ll still keep training and fighting. All something like this makes me want to do is get back in the gym and train more. I was in great shape for this fight and was healthy. I made a mistake; I’ll be back.”
After the fight was stopped, Liddell had a confused look on his face as if the match was halted prematurely. “He hit him with a big right hand that basically put him completely out. He lost consciousness; his legs went flat,” explained referee John McCarthy. “He actually got hit again as I was stopping the fight and it kind of brought him back; that happens all the time. Once it gets to the point when a fighter is unconscious, he can’t protect himself. We don’t have unconscious fighters getting beat on and that’s why we’re stopping the fight.”
The UFC now possesses one of the most entertaining and outspoken fighters in Quinton Jackson. Becoming champion will only increase his marketability and garner him many new fans. Although he failed to accomplish his goal of being a world champion in his days with Pride, Jackson has now propelled himself to the top of his game and achieved the most defining moment of his career.
“I was real relaxed. I didn’t expect my fight to go about so quick,” Jackson commented at the post-fight press conference. “I thought I was going to take Chuck into the third round but Chuck was right; he said someone was going to get knocked out in the first. It happened.”
“The first fight was a war. Chuck is tough as hell. I was planning on getting him out of there in the first round in Japan because it was ten minutes and I had a second fight that night. Chuck brought his ‘A’ game. Today, I was really shocked. I got to keep it real; I was real shocked that fight went so quick. I thought it was going to be another war. I just trained my butt off. I went into the mountains and was focused. I looked like a mountain man; I was hairy and had bad breath like my trainer,” continued the new champion as the press room erupted with laughter. “I stuck with it and was up there for a long time. I just trained really hard.”
Some considered Quinton’s victory as a changing of the guard. Loyal Liddell fans were still in shock, distraught in some cases. The crowning of a new champion may have changed the dynamics of the 205-pound division.
Change can be good thing.
Due to Liddell’s prior dominance, credible opponents were becoming scarce. Now, the potential list of contenders has been revived, especially with the recent signing of current Pride 185-pound and 205-pound Champion Dan Henderson and the notion that Chute Boxe stars Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will eventually follow suit.
“[I'll fight] anybody,” affirmed Quinton. “To be honest, I didn’t think it was fair to Chuck for me to just walk into the UFC with one fight and then fight him. Chuck has been doing a good job representing the sport. I still think that I should have been built up a little bit more so the fans can see what kind of animal I really am; how I get my job done. It would make Chuck look a lot better because I do my thang. It don’t matter who, Wanderlei Silva, Shogun; I’ll even take Sakuraba’s old ass, where he at?”
Although Quinton Jackson fights for the UFC now, his personality in and out of a Pride ring made him a star in Japan. Fighting in front of sell-out crowds of 50,000-plus fans, Jackson was well-received and remained popular before he left the organization to fight in the U.S. Conversely, Jackson was met by a less than supportive crowd last Saturday as he made his entrance into the octagon.
“It adds fuel to the fire. I don’t care if the fans boo,” revealed Jackson. “I got to address them after the fight, it’s all good. I’m not used to it because in Japan I got them wrapped around my finger, you know what I’m saying? They loved me over there. I’m huge in Japan.”
Becoming a champion is the ultimate goal of almost every fighter. Jackson would state otherwise.
“I still don’t care,” said Jackson casually. “It’s bringing me money though. As long as the belt brings me money to pay my bills…so I can get me a Bentley and a ‘big boy house’. I’ve seen what Chuck was driving around in. Don’t get me wrong, I look up to Chuck. He’s a lot older than me; a lot older [hilarity ensued in the press room]. I learned from him, I can be a baller like him one day. This is what this belt is going to do for me. I’m from the streets, you feel me?”
Always entertaining and ever so outspoken, Quinton Jackson defied the odds and dethroned a champion. He achieved the most defining moment of his career and opened the door to bigger paydays. Make no mistake, “Rampage” has made his mark.
“I’m happy I’m the champ.”