By Elias Cepeda
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson got into a car in New York City one afternoon this week, headed to Connecticut. Shortly after he sat down I asked where, specifically, he was headed to in Connecticut and why.
“I’m going to a little place called, ‘None of your damned business.’”
A standard tongue-in-cheek answer from Jackson, really. He was headed to Connecticut to visit a doctor of his.
The former UFC champion is currently on the mend from a number of injuries. He’s also at the start of what he is optimistic will be a flourishing new career with Bellator and Viacom.
After walking out on the UFC earlier this year, Jackson announced in early June that he had signed with the Viacom-owned Bellator Fighting Championships. He will fight there, wrestle on the TNA pro wrestling circuit, appear in a reality show airing on Spike and, he hopes, star in Paramount Pictures films, also owned by Viacom.
Despite this windfall of opportunity, I was a bit concerned for Jackson as an outside observer. Increasingly, he’s sounded less like the terrorizing, hungry fighter that became a world champion and more like an aging veteran content to show up, take lumps and collect a pay check.
“My main job is to entertain the fans,” he told us a few weeks ago.
“I know that realistically I probably won’t win all my fights in Bellator. But I’ll be damned if I won’t entertain people. I’m going to come over and put on the most exciting fights.”
That sentiment sounded generous, surely, but also a bit unsafe. In response, I wrote that “When a fighter who used to once be driven to be the best now simply hopes to titillate spectators by hitting and being hit, however, it can be a bad sign of damage to come.”
My concern was unfounded, though, Jackson says. Either I wasn’t listening or I didn’t get what he was saying.
“I have the same attitude now in fighting that I’ve always had,” he tells me from inside the car headed to his doctor in Connecticut.
“People misunderstand what I say. I’ve always fought to entertain the fans, and I think I have a pretty good record [of winning] doing that. A lot of times you win but sometimes you make a mistake. You get caught because you left yourself exposed. I think I’ve done good with that approach. I’ve always been a fighter to entertain, not just to win.
“But when I came to America it got to be a little different because of the fans. The fans here are different and only care if you win. If you lose, they don’t care if you were exciting, or fought injured. In Japan it was different. Maybe it’s just different because they are speaking Japanese and you don’t understand what they say to you [chuckles] but the feeling back there when I fought in Pride is different than what I found when I came to the U.S. and fought in the UFC. I started to care more about winning, and playing it a little more safe. Now I’m just getting back to my roots where my main objective is to entertain.”
His wanting to simply fight in exciting fashion isn’t a sign of Jackson being burned out on MMA, he says. The Memphis native still wants to win. It’s just that focusing on fighting hard and being exciting also makes him a better fighter.
“It takes the pressure off me,” he explains.
“I know when two guys step into the cage, there is a 50% chance that one is going to win and 50% chance that he’s going to lose. I know that. Both fighters can’t be winners every time. So, I can’t focus too much on that and put that pressure on my shoulders. At the end of the day, it’s about entertainment.
“I could go out there and put on boring ass fights for the fans, taking people down and humping them like Chael Sonnen [laughs]. I can go and fight that way but I don’t think people will buy my pay per views. How can you be a fighter named ‘Rampage’ and be taking people down, holding them down, pushing them against the cage? There are a lot of tricks that fighters do like that and I know them all. I just don’t want to use them and fight that way.”
Jackson’s rosy outlook on his new Bellator/TNA deal also sounded a bit naïve, considering how he’s eventually soured on so many prior business dealings in the past decade. “Rampage” once thought Pride was great, then got sick of them and said that Dana White had saved him before then ultimately falling out with the UFC President.
The fighter trusted an old trainer with managing his career and handling his estate, only to become disillusioned when he says he was taken advantage of. Jackson says that his affairs are in much better shape these days.
He’s got a good contract with Viacom and it is the result of solid management. “Right now I’ve got one of the best managers in MMA,” Jackson assures me.
“He’s really good. He’s honest, which is the one thing that is very important to me. A lot of times the public don’t understand that the fighters, when we training for a fight, that’s what we focus on. We don’t want to focus on business while we’ve got to train for a fight. So, a manager is very important. A manager know basically everything about you. My manager now, he’s the one that put together this deal right here and it is one of the best deals I’ve ever had. I’m back on Spike, I’m going to fight, I get to do pro wrestling and I have opportunities for movies. Athletes always say, ‘I could be making more money,’ but I have to say that I’m very happy with this deal and he did a great job. I’m happy with everything.”
Certainly, there is a lot of business to manage in Jackson’s world these days. In addition to fighting, Jackson has already appeared on a TNA wrestling telecast and is pitching a movie script that he’s written to Paramount.
As a matter of fact, “Rampage” says that he just had a meeting with a writer that Viacom sent his way to help him work on his script. “They are helping me write a script. I wrote one but I’m not a script writer. They already got me on TNA and they are working on a fight for me before the year ends. Plus, I’m going to start filming the reality show soon. And, the car they got for me is going to get dropped off Friday.”
Jackson says he’s being gifted a Tesla electric sports car.
“I’m going green, baby!” he says.
Jackson says that pro wrestling has always been a dream for him but acknowledges that the business may be even tougher on one’s body than MMA is. “Pro wrestling looks like it is tougher on the body than MMA because they do it so often,” he observes.
“When I was young I used to fight six times a year. These guys can go six times a month. My style of pro wrestling is going to have to be a style that is not so hard on my body. Maybe it will be a little harder on my opponents. My body has been through it. I’m going to have to bring my own style to wrestling. I’m not going to do crazy high-flying stuff because that’s not me.”
Jackson says that TNA is providing him with a pro wrestling coach and that he will begin to learn how to run the ropes, take falls and everything else involved in the wrasslin’ biz soon. For now, Jackson has to get healthy.
He hasn’t fought since January and doesn’t say how much he weighs at this moment. In the past, however, Jackson has ballooned in weight in between fights — making for tough weight cuts.
“I’ve always considered myself a human being first and a fighter second,” he explains.
“Sometimes that isn’t the best thing for my career but no one is perfect. Ideally, my ideal weight in between fights would be 225 pounds. But that is in a perfect world. I’ve got a lot of muscle on my body. You add a little fat onto that and there you go.”
After filming “The ‘A’-Team” and before fighting Rashad Evans, Jackson had a particularly large amount of weight to lose. He enlisted the help of former fighter and current strength, conditioning and nutrition coach Mike Dolce.
Dolce now works on UFC products in addition to his own coaching business and recently gave an interview where he claimed that Jackson was his most challenging client because the fighter wasn’t honest about what he ate and showed little will-power. Secret stashes of chocolate bars were a constant hindrance, according to Dolce.
Jackson dismisses Dolce’s criticisms. “Mike Dolce is just promoting himself. All that guy does is talk shit,” he says.
“If you look at the Countdown show to fights before I worked with Dolce and while I was working with him, my face actually looked better before I worked with him…I did my last weight cuts myself. I got a chef and did it myself.
“When was the last time Mike Dolce won a fight himself? He says I didn’t win without him. My last three fights I lost because Jon Jones kicked my ass and I was injured for my last two fights. I didn’t lose because of my weight. I’m a human being first and a fighter second…I don’t eat, sleep and breathe this stuff. I nibble a little bit sometimes. All you have to do is eat clean to lose weight. He has the ‘Dolce Diet’ and tries to fool people into thinking it is something special. Everything in the ‘Dolce Diet’ you can learn yourself by searching on the internet.”
Feuds, new business deals and everything else aside, if Jackson is going to continue fighting and do so before the end of the year, he’ll need to properly motivated to do so. He insists that he is.
His hunger to compete is back. Once he heals up, Jackson says he’s eager to get inside the cage once more. “Yeah. I can’t wait,” he says.
“I just want my body to get as close to 100% as it can. I’ve been fighting injured for a while. Fans don’t see that. All they see is you losing. They don’t see you missing training. All they see is you getting your ass kicked. What I’ve got to do is get my body right.”