The "Rampage" Way
09/04/2007

By Thomas Gerbasi - Quinton Jackson is tired. You can hear it in his voice after one of Juanito Ibarra's no-nonsense training sessions where sweat is required and whining is not tolerated. It's the price you pay when you're at the top of the UFC's light heavyweight division, the man everyone is gunning for, but Jackson's okay with that.

By Thomas Gerbasi

Quinton Jackson is tired. You can hear it in his voice after one of Juanito Ibarra's no-nonsense training sessions where sweat is required and whining is not tolerated. It's the price you pay when you're at the top of the UFC's light heavyweight division, the man everyone is gunning for, but Jackson's okay with that.

"I've been all right," Jackson says softly when you ask how he's doing. "Been getting my ass kicked."

It's part of the job description, and Jackson, like the rest of us, has heard all the clichs: "the more you sweat, the less you bleed"; "the fight is won in the gym"; and "pain is merely weakness leaving the body." There are dozens of them, but they're clichs because they're true, and Rampage' is leaving no stone unturned as he prepares for what may be his career-defining fight a title unification bout with his PRIDE counterpart Dan Henderson on Saturday in London.

"He's very tough guy, and I think it's gonna be a good fight," said Jackson in a rare dose of understatement. But this is more than just a "good fight". This is a matchup of the top two light heavyweights on the planet, and it's on free cable television (Spike TV) to boot. It's the kind of fight that can do what Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar I did for mixed martial arts in 2005 times a hundred. For Jackson though, it's just another step in his quest to be the best.

"I do want to fight the best in the world to prove that I'm the best, and if I fall short, who cares," he said. "I'll get back up and go again."

It doesn't look like Jackson is going anywhere anytime soon. Following a stellar career with PRIDE in Japan, the 29-year old from Memphis returned to the States in July of 2006 to take on Matt Lindland in a WFA bout, which he won via decision. The WFA's assets would get bought by Zuffa soon after, and with those assets came the charismatic Jackson's contract, meaning that the Octagon would soon become his home.

And 2007 has been Jackson's year. Following a tentative but decisive knockout win of Marvin Eastman in February, Rampage' shocked the casual fans of the sport by making it 2-0 over Chuck Liddell via a devastating first round TKO. Unfortunately, taking down the beloved Liddell meant boos for Jackson in Las Vegas that night.

"You can't boo a man for doing his job," said Jackson, one of the good guys in the game, and someone certainly not deserving of boos in the Octagon. "I did my job and then I felt I was getting punished for it. But it's all good, it's just gonna make me stronger. People just don't know a lot about me. I've been treated unfairly my whole life, and it makes me train harder and gives me more determination to do ugly to my opponents."

Luckily, in the aftermath of the win over Liddell, Jackson has been able to show American fans and the mainstream press the personality and humor that has made him a favorite of Japanese fans and the worldwide MMA media for years. Call it the Quintonization of America. But for Jackson, it's just another day at the office.

"A lot of American fans don't realize that the popularity I have now in America is not new to me," he said. "I'm just as popular, if not more, in Japan. So I don't notice a difference; all I know is that the attention I used to get in Japan, I'm getting in my own town, so it's really nothing new."

Jackson admits that post-Liddell he "felt like a rock star on tour, going everywhere, signing autographs," but the biggest thrill came when he met up with a certain pop star.

"The best thing that's come out of me being champ is I got a chance to meet Beyonce, so I'm happy about that," he said. "That was my lucky day, 7/7/07."

So, is Beyonce a UFC fan?

"She didn't say. But she did make fun of me for wearing my belt."

See, fame won't change Jackson, and you've got to assume that if that was a possibility, Ibarra - the architect in the gym and the Octagon for Rampage's success wouldn't let it. So the champ keeps putting in the long hours in the gym so he can keep that belt fastened around his waist.

"I'm not a perfect man, but I'm a man of God, and God likes people to be humble," said Jackson. "I give all glory to him because he's the one who put me in this position. It's his glory, not mine. I can't dwell on this, because if I do and don't train hard, then Henderson will kick my ass, and I can't let that happen."

That's because if he does get past Henderson this Saturday, there are more than a few superfights left for him. And though a third fight with Liddell would be on many wishlists, Jackson has his sights set on a little payback with two newcomers he is well acquainted with, Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio Shogun' Rua.

"I would love it," said Jackson of fighting Silva (who beat him twice in PRIDE) and Rua (who beat him once in PRIDE). "That would make everything good and some of my prayers would be answered if those guys come over and I can get in the cage with them again."

That's putting the cart before the horse, but with the 205-pound division suddenly stacked with talent and endless intriguing matchups to be made, it's hard not to play matchmaker well into the New Year even though this one still has four months left in it. However you slice it though, Quinton Jackson will be in the mix doing things his way - The Rampage' Way.

"I'm the type of fighter that wants to please the crowd," he said. "Win, lose, or draw, I want to put on a good show. That's what I do. I want everybody to be amused from the moment I walk out to the moment I leave. That's me in a nutshell and that's what I get paid for. I'm an entertainer and I'm gonna entertain everyone."

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