Pads are popping. The smell of sweat and adrenaline are in the air, when in walks a familiar face. The setting is the old Bomb Squad Gym in Hollywood, California. The familiar face is none other than Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The animated fighter always enters the gym with two things, a signature style, along with a smile.
The warehouse like gym becomes as quiet as a church when the then-Pride star walks in to start his sparring session. “Rampage” tunes up all of his sparring partners with heavy hands and impressive Muay Thai skills that most MMA fans have not seen from him.
On his way out he was always personable, joking and laughing and wishing his best to everyone else in the gym. He was a rising star in the Pride organization at that time and fans loved his style. Hard wild punches, knees, and some of the most dynamic slams that have ever been displayed in MMA were Jackson’s bread and butter.
While in Pride, Jackson got W’s against the likes of Ikuhisa Minowa, Igor Vovchanchyn, Kevin Randleman, Murilo Bustamante, Chuck Liddell and Ricardo Arona. Jackson’s crowd pleasing style seemed to come out of a pro wrestling ring mixed with a Mike Tyson boxing match.
He seemed to be unbeatable until he crossed paths with Wanderlai Silva at the finals of the Middleweight Grand Prix in 2003 where he lost to Silva and his devastating knees. Jackson would lose to Silva again and followed that up with a loss to Silva’s Chute Boxe teammate Mauicio “Shogun” Rua.
When Jackson finally made it to the UFC, many fans wondered if “Rampage” could return to his earlier glory. A knockout win against a familiar foe in Marvin Eastman, followed by once again besting Chuck Liddell elevated Jackson to the top of the light heavyweight division as its champion.
Jackson then went on to coach on season 7 of “The Ultimate Fighter” opposite Forrest Griffin, who would challenge and end up defeating him at UFC 86. He bounced back by finally avenging his losses to Wanderlei Silva and then taking out Keith Jardine only three months later.
Since his last fight in the UFC, Jackson has since gone on to coach on another season of “The Ultimate Fighter” against rival, Rashad Evans.
After the season ended, fans were chomping at the bit to see the marquee fight between the two coaches but news quickly broke that Jackson chose to work on the A-Team rather than fight Evans at UFC 107. Dana White was heated after the UFC had promoted UFC 107 in Jackson’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, only to have Jackson “retire”.
The reoccurring question in Jackson’s career has always been focus. Many perils in Jackson’s career have come with regards to his training and overall planning and focus towards his fight career. Difficulties with his former trainer Juanito Ibarra, felony reckless driving charges, as well as leaving his fight with Evans have fans questioning his desire.
Jackson now trains at the Wolfslair Gym in the U.K. with friend, Michael Bisping. The decision to change training camps has had people wondering why he would go to a gym with limited competition to train for fights. Personally, I would like to see the former champ dedicate himself to training and fighting to return to the days of old when he fought in Pride.
His skill set has been limited since entering the UFC, mainly focusing on his boxing and leaving his other talents aside. Fans would love to see the “Rampage” who slammed, kneed, and punched his way into our hearts. If Jackson was truly dedicated and reclaimed his Muay Thai and wrestling skills and combined that with his increased punching power, he could find his way back to the title.
When Rampage returns to the Octagon at UFC 114 against Evans, we will see if his focus lies in the cage or elsewhere.