By MATT MOLGAARD
MMANEWS.COM Staff Writer
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has always been a bit erratic. The rugged former champion has seen his share of drama within the confines of a cage, or ring for that matter, but of late, Jackson has taken to outlandish tactics and brash banter outside of professional competition. Some may point to past occurrences as early indications of mental instability, but recently, the drifting power puncher has really ratcheted up the intensity.
The beginning of Jackson’s professional troubles truly began back in 2008, days after losing his title to Forrest Griffin, when he led Costa Mesa police officers on a high-speed chase through the Californian suburbs of Costa Mesa, all the way to Newport Beach. During Rampage’s… rampage, a pregnant woman was injured, and subsequently lost her unborn baby. Somehow, Jackson avoided serious jail time, but his career seemed to take a bit of a dive, as Quinton parted ways with longtime trainer Juanito Ibarra (citing financial issues), has failed to find consistent success since, and has juggled numerous personal troubles in the last four years.
Contractual friction emerged between Jackson and UFC president Dana White the following year when Jackson opted to try his hand at acting (he appeared in the underwhelming A-Team reboot). Jackson took to the media to express his interest in departing from the fight world in favor of less taxing work in Hollywood, which triggered a relatively tame (by recent standards) war of words between the two; after The A-Team failed to secure the domestic draw insiders predicted, Jackson refocused on his fighting career (I’m guessing there weren’t an abundance of filmmakers knocking down Jackson’s door), which has been a bit rocky since.
Since March of 2009 Jackson has posted an unspectacular professional record of 3-3. But the controversy that’s followed Jackson hasn’t been confined to the cage. He’s run into heated criticism related to his overtly… friendly demeanor with female reporters (Jackson’s been seen dry-humping more than a single lady, and apparently isn’t afraid to “motorboat” the ladies either, cameras rolling or not), and conjured backlash from fans due to a case of what can only be labeled extreme sensitivity (He’s threatened nearly every fighter to question his dedication, or for that matter pick against him in a fight; IE, Randy Couture, Rich Franklin, Chael Sonnen… etc., etc.).
But the last month in particular has been truly rough for the former Pride star and UFC belt holder. Jackson was tapped to collide with talented wrestler Ryan Bader at UFC 144. Rampage, who suffered some form of knee injury while training (as he initially stated, though he’s since claimed that it was Jon Jones who caused the damage when they met at UFC 135), tipped the scales at 211 pounds; a full five pounds north of the contractual maximum weight limit of 206 pounds. White, who’s always been a stickler in regards to making weight, expressed ire, and Jackson was penalized 20 percent of his purse, which was awarded to his opponent, Bader. To add insult to injury, Quinton turned in one of the most uninspired performances of his career, which has now spanned more than 12 years.
Over the course of three rounds Ryan Bader, a significant underdog heading into the fight, outworked Jackson, utilizing drastically improved footwork and striking, coupled with a vicious power double leg takedown and stifling top control to pick up points on the judges’ scorecards. Bader, a relative newcomer in contrast to Jackson, made Rampage look like a fish far distanced from water (sans one brief exchange which led to a vintage Rampage slam), and it sure didn’t please Jackson, who’s been on one damn long tirade since the defeat.
Jackson immediately lashed out at his naysayers, and launched a string of accusations at the UFC, claiming he’d been repeatedly targeted by Joe Silva, the UFC’s matchmaker, as evidenced by the string of wrestlers he’s faced in recent years. The irony comes in the fact that Rampage rose to prominence with his willingness to battle anyone, including a handful of quality offensive grapplers including Kevin Randleman, Matt Lindland, and Ricardo Arona. I suppose matchmaking isn’t such a factor when you’re consistently winning fights.
As of late, Rampage has utilized Twitter in the worst of ways, Tweeting frequently; all but demanding he be released from his contract with the largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world. Rampage’s recent quips haven’t gone unnoticed by UFC brass. In fact, UFC president Dana White is prepared to, in effect grant all of Rampage’s wishes; he’s informed Quinton that he will indeed release him from the promotion upon completion of his final contracted fight. He’s also offered Rampage a fight he’s been requesting for years (which just so happens to, theoretically, be a favorable stylistic match; IE not a wrestler), a rematch with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. And, that my friends, leads us to the strangest fork in this well-trodden path.
No sooner did White step up willing to meet the voiced demands, only to be countered by Jackson with some strange news. Now, he’s apparently not willing to meet Shogun in the cage this summer (a timeframe outlined in White’s offer). He’s declared that he’ll undergo double knee surgery, and will require additional time to make the Rua rematch a reality. For a man so hell bent on avenging a loss and exiting a promotion, the sudden swing comes as a bit of a shock, and leaves one burning question in the minds of fans and critics: has Rampage simply been posturing for an increase in pay? If so, it seems there’s been a little backfire.
What becomes of Rampage at this point remains to be seen. As a longtime fan (I had the pleasure of watching him fight at Gladiator Challenge 2, way back in 2001), I’m not displeased with Jackson’s actions so much as concerned for his mental state. His behavior has become increasingly unpredictable over the last few years, and it’s time people stopped dismissing the man’s strange actions with meager excuses such as “that’s just Rampage”, because it’s not. Quinton has exhibited a knack for violence for a long time; he doesn’t duck fighters, and he’s generally a decent man. To see such a downward spiral in such a short time frame is a little unsettling. Here’s hoping the man has some genuine friends in his presence, because some professional help looks to be required.