The December issue of The Atlantic includes David Samuels’ profile of "Rampage" Jackson leading up to and following his July bout with Forrest Griffin. It is perhaps the best in-depth, mainstream coverage of a UFC fighter that we’ve seen yet, and it couldn’t come at a more interesting time in Jackson’s life.
The profile piece follows Jackson through a training camp with Juanito Ibarra, to fight night, to the delirium-fueled run from the cops, to the aftermath. There are so many interesting insights into the life and mind of the former champ that it would be pointless to recap them all (which is why you should just read the damn thing), but here’s a taste that’s especially telling, knowing what we know now:
After a particularly humiliating loss in Japan during which the newly born-again Jackson was publicly berated by his corner men before being taken to the hospital with broken ribs, Ibarra called the fighter and offered to train him. “I kept hearing through the gyms that Rampage went crazy because he found Jesus Christ,” Ibarra remembers. The trainer shared his own experience of being born again, which followed the soul-crushing ordeal of losing the fighter Oscar de la Hoya, who went on to become boxing’s richest fighter under the tutelage of another trainer. What Rampage lacked was exactly what Ibarra had to teach—technique, control, and an older man’s knowledge of the fight game. Ibarra’s plan involved building up Jackson’s skills to the point where he could win and keep a championship while creating a network of profit-participation deals that would make both men rich. “He has his own rims out now and his own energy drink, his own toy, and we’ve got some other things in the works,” Ibarra explains. “No one uses his name without paying big bucks.”
And don’t worry, we even get up inside Dana White’s head a little. Check out what’s after the jump, for instance.
After the loss to Griffin, Samuels sees Dana White pull Juanito Ibarra aside for a little chat. Later he tries to find out what was said between the two of them:
“I’m not a Juanito fan,” he says. “He was mad because what he said, on the countdown show, he said, ‘I’ll fucking retire if Forrest Griffin beats Rampage Jackson.’ And fucking one of the dudes called him on it. One of the cut men said, ‘Are you retiring now, motherfucker?’”
“He does love his fighters, though,” I answer. “That’s one good thing about him.”
“I hope he does,” White answers. “If Rampage goes on a skid—let’s say he goes on a skid now. He lost this fight tonight, and he loses four more after it. And is kicked out of the UFC, retires from fighting. Right? Is Juanito gonna be with him for the rest of his life? I dunno. What do you think?”
I don’t know those guys well enough, I respond.
White looks at me hard.
“Nobody knows anybody well enough,” he answers.
And just wait until you hear Dana White’s justification of fighter pay, merchandising deals, and what he thinks of matching Rampage up against Silva at such a volatile time in his life. Seriously. Read it.