(Photo courtesy of MeanStyle.com)
Several times Keith Jardine has seemed on the verge of breaking into the top echelon of the UFC’s light heavyweight division. His unexpected victories over current 205-pound champ Forrest Griffin and former champ Chuck Liddell showed flashes of his ability, but after each triumph he was brought back down by subsequent knockout losses against Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva, respectively.
Now “The Dean of Mean” has another chance to get back in the win column against Brandon Vera at UFC 89 this Saturday. In this exclusive Cage Potato interview, Jardine discusses his next test, his prior losses, and how they all blend together.
CagePotato.com: Hey Keith, thanks for talking with me. With fight night creeping up on us, how has your training been for this one?
KEITH JARDINE: Training has been going great. I’ve had Rashad Evans to work with and then Georges St. Pierre’s been through here. It doesn’t get much better than that. You’ve got to have guys who are going to push you. You can’t just go against people you can beat up. You should be a little nervous to go to practice every day. If you aren’t, then you probably aren’t getting better.
It does sound like you always have lots of great guys coming through Greg Jackson’s to help you prepare. But tell me about Greg himself. I saw a video after your loss to Wanderlei where he said he took full responsibility for the loss. What did he mean by that?
That’s just Greg. That’s just how he is. He takes everything on himself. The truth is it was my fault. I’m the one who lost my focus for a second. You can’t do that against a guy like [Silva].
Well next up you’ve got Brandon Vera, who’s pretty tough as well. What are you expecting out of him on October 18?
He’s one of the most accomplished kickboxers around, plus he’s got great ground skills, so he’s not weak in any area. His muay thai is great and it would really mean a lot to beat him.
Since he is such an accomplished kickboxer do you think you’ll want to stand and trade with him, or would you rather get him to the ground?
No, I’m not worried about any of that. He’s one of the top guys in the weight class and one of the top guys in the world, so I’m just excited to go out there and get a chance to fight him.
After your fight with Liddell, a lot of people remarked on the sizable difference in pay between you. Obviously he’s a big star for the UFC, but he made half a million for losing and you made fourteen grand for winning. That’s got to be a little aggravating, right?
Not really. Dana takes care of us, and I’m not too worried as long as I get the chance to accomplish my dream, and that’s fighting the best guys out there and doing it for a living. The money’s going to be there if I just win fights. It’s all in my hands, really, and that’s all you can ask for. I may not be the most marketable guy like some of these other fighters, but if I keep winning fights it won’t matter. It’s up to me.
You mention your marketability as a fighter. What affect does that have on your career? Do you see yourself as being unmarketable?
No, but I’m kind of the blue-collar fighter in the UFC. Nobody’s packaged me and promoted me the way they’ve been able to do with some other guys, so I guess I don’t really get some of those big sponsorships or some of those fights. I just have to keep plodding along and keep winning and make it all happen for myself. But, you know, that’s my job. That’s what I do.
As far as your fight with Brandon Vera, where do you think the winner and the loser will find themselves in the UFC’s light heavyweight picture after this is all over?
I think the winner is an automatic contender for the title. The winner gets thrown in that mix. The loser has to go back and try and work his way back up. I know what that’s like, and I don’t want to be there again.
Some guys really dislike fighting in foreign countries. Are you worried about how the travel to the U.K. will affect you?
I’ve fought in foreign countries before. I fought in Japan and I fought in Moscow. I am a little worried about jetlag since I know what that’s like. When I fought in Moscow I actually fell asleep after my warm-up. But I’m going there early to give myself time to recover and get used to it. But other than that it’s almost like a vacation. I get to go to England and fight in a new place and I’m looking forward to it.
Since you’ve been kind of up and down the last couple of years, what have you learned that you can bring into this fight with you? How have you mentally prepared for it?
It’s just an accumulation of all your fights. Every fight you get wiser and stronger. You learn something you can put into use in your next fight. I feel like I’m the most prepared I can be for this fight because of all the other fights I’ve had and everything I’ve learned, and that makes it easier to go in there and do what you have to.
Thanks, Keith. Anything else you want to add?
Just look forward to a great fight, and check out my website at MeanStyle.com.
(— Ben Fowlkes)