by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
Don’t get him wrong – Quinton “Rampage” Jackson wants his UFC light heavyweight belt back. But after avenging two losses to Wanderlei Silva, the belt is second to the man who most recently put him in the L column.
“Why do we do it?” Jackson offered at the post-fight press conference for UFC 92. “Everybody wants to be the best, everybody wants to be the champ. But to be quite honest, I’d rather go and fight Forrest.”
Griffin lost his UFC light heavyweight title on Saturday, victim of a vicious ground and pound attack at the hands of Rashad Evans. Evans, long considered a dark horse of the division, is the UFC’s sole undefeated champion and has undeniably arrived as one of the brightest talents at 205 pounds.
Five months ago, at UFC 86, Griffin took the belt from Jackson, and subsequently, Jackson lost himself. Mired in personal and legal problems, Jackson looked in the mirror and saw his old foe.
“That’s the fight now that haunts me when I go to sleep, that I have nightmares about,” he continued. “That’s the fight when I look at myself in the mirror.”
First, Quinton Jackson had to look another foe in the mirror, that of Wanderlei Silva, who’d beaten him twice in brutal fashion. That didn’t rattle him nearly as much. He had trained harder than ever before. No more stops at Chinese fast food joint Panda Express a few days out from the fight. No more sparring with guys who complained when he hit them too hard.
“I knew I was going to win because this time, I’m the closest to 100 percent that I’ve ever been,” he said. “I wish I could fight every fight in this condition.”
All the talk about the match-up being too early and too cruel served as a motivator in the gym.
“Who cares what people say?” Quinton Jackson said. “They don’t know; they don’t live in my head. I want to prove everybody wrong. I heard about some fighters talking smack about ‘Wanderlei’s in Rampage’s head, he beat Rampage twice.’ They don’t know what type of person I am. I’m from the streets; I don’t get scared. So what if the guy beat me. He didn’t kill me; I’m still here. I’m ready to fight him a couple more times.”
Still, Jackson said he had a lot on his mind when he stepped into the cage on Saturday. He didn’t want to let himself and his trainers down, especially when he’d traveled so fair to create the right environment. Training at the Wolfslair in the U.K. put him in touch with people who understood his needs, and it sacrificed time with his family.
“You have no idea,” he said. “It was a big mental fight for me. I was the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life.”
Jackson thanked the UFC for giving him the opportunity to avenge his losses. If anything, they prevented his family from teasing him, as they always did, when he lost.
“You guys just don’t know my family, they make fun of me,” he said. “When I got knocked out by Wanderlei, I got a call from my cousin. He called me up, he was like ‘I heard you just got knocked the (expletive) out.’ Right before I hung up the phone, that’s when he said, ‘now let me borrow some money.’ That’s the type of family I got.”
Jackson’s fate is not as certain as, say, Frank Mir. A variety of options exist for his future. Besides Griffin, the winner of Lyoto Machida vs. Thiago Silva at UFC 94 would be a viable option, and a title shot against Evans would not be unreasonable. The former light heavyweight champion says he won’t turn down any fights, but right now, the UFC knows where he stands.
“I want the belt, I want to be champion, but I would like to get Forrest first, if I could,” Jackson said.