by Mitch Gobetz – MMAWeekly.com
Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson’s career has come full circle. He was once considered a top contender in Pride’s middleweight division, but had failed to capture the Pride Middleweight title. Now he gets a chance to capture the UFC Light Heavyweight title on Saturday night against a man he already defeated in Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell.
‘Rampage’ defeated Liddell in the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. He unleashed a barrage of punches on ‘The Iceman’, and took him down several times. Chuck’s corner threw in the towel after ‘Rampage’ was brutally ground and pounding Liddell. After defeating Liddell, Jackson faced then champion Wanderlei Silva. Silva defeated ‘Rampage’ to win the Middleweight Grand Prix.
After defeating Ikuhisa Minowa, he fought Ricardo Arona and proceeded to power bomb him in one of the biggest highlight knockouts ever. This would line him up to get his rematch with Wanderlei. There was a lot of tension building up for this fight and it didn’t disappoint. In what was considered a possible fight of the year, ‘Rampage’ came up on the losing side after getting viciously kneed by Silva and ending up almost falling completely through the ropes. A slew of fans and media alike think that ‘Rampage’ hasn’t been the same since he lost to Wanderlei. Jackson doesn’t believe that though. “People think what they think. You know? That was going through a time when I was sparring with amateurs fighters trying to prepare for a professional fight. I don’t think I was my best during those times. I wasn’t at the top of my game. I can’t lie and say I was.
It was preparation. You know what I’m saying? You can’t spar with amateurs, train with amateurs and to fight profession. It ain’t going to work out.”
‘Rampage’ tried to bounce back by defeating Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua, but succumbed to a beating from his brother, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. After defeating a few lesser known Japanese fighters in Pride, ‘Rampage’ decided to sign with the now defunct WFA. ‘Rampage’ went on to defeat Matt Lindland via split decision. The UFC shortly afterward purchased the WFA and ‘Rampage’s’ contract.
Jackson knew that he was on a collision course with Liddell, but he wanted a couple of fights. Some people thought that Jackson was tentative to get in with Liddell, but that wasn’t the case. “I would have loved to fight Chuck after the UFC’s new fans knew how I was,” Jackson said recently. “To me, and I’m on the outside looking in, I get one fight in the UFC and then I fight the champion. A lot of people didn’t see the fight between Chuck and I. They haven’t seen our history. I think it would have made more money and a better pay-per-view if people could see me crashing more folks and me doing my thing, slamming folks, and knocking folks out. Then I challenge Chuck.”
‘Rampage’s’ first test in the octagon was against the first man to defeat him – Marvin Eastman. Jackson looked tentative in his octagon debut, but knocked out Eastman in the second. If the fans think that ‘Rampage’ is going to be nervous again, then they should think again. “I think the big problem was that it had been a while since I had fought. My first time in the UFC I wanted to put on a good show, but this time it won’t affect me. I’ve fought. It’s not my UFC debut. It’s over. That was the first time.”
Jackson’s training has stepped up a notch since he hooked up with his trainer Juanito Ibarra. “My training is excellent. I have some good sparring partners. I’m working hard.” Chuck was taken down a few times in their first fight. Does ‘Rampage’ think he can take Chuck down at will? “Chuck is a pretty tough guy to take down. I don’t think anybody will take Chuck down at will, and he stands up great, so there has to be a strategy there. I’m the type of fighter that I go in there and fight. Whatever happens in the fight happens. You know? Who gives a damn? A fight in unpredictable anyway.”
Jackson is a perfect style to give Liddell fits. He has above average striking, a lot of power, strong slams and a large build. This Saturday night’s main event should be electrifying and everyone is looking forward to it. Liddell has been on a tear as of late, but his winning streak is not what ‘Rampage’ thinks is the most impressive thing about Chuck. “I’m impressed by how he keeps that mohawk looking like that everytime I see him. I’m really impressed with it. I wonder if he cuts it himself, if he has a private barber, or if he has this little stincil thing he puts on his head so he don’t mess it up. How does Chuck keep his mohawk looking like that all the time?”
With a victory over ‘The Iceman’ this weekend, ‘Rampage’ will be the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, but Jackson doesn’t care about the belt. “Really it don’t mean a whole lot to me to be the champion to be honest. It means a lot to me to be a paid man. You know what I’m saying? That I have enough money that I can put it up so I retire because I’m not going to be able to fight for the rest of my life. That’s what I know. It really don’t mean a lot because, if I would have had a few fights in the UFC and built up to the belt, the belt would mean a whole lot to me. The belt don’t really mean a damn thing to me. I don’t give a damn.”