It started back at UFC 94, gone was the joking, jovial Quinton Jackson. Many of us mistook it for nerves and a lack of confidence heading into his fight against his arch-nemisis Wanderlei Silva. The more serious, business-like Rampage pay dividends as he destroyed Silva with a left hook just 3:21 into the fight.
With UFC 96 fast approaching, we're seeing the same quiet Jackson. There wasn't a whole lot of joking and the answers were brief especially with media members he was unfamiliar with. It's not nerves and there's no mental anguish this time, it's just the new Rampage courtesy of his new training camp, The Wolfslair.
Jackson has an entire entourage following him and they're all about the former light heavyweight champ, not spreading about the word of the Lord or telling tales about their background and most of all not about trying to make money and deals for themselves. It's all positive now:
"All that type of stuff is important, good training, good diet, good positive people around you. My last people that was around me wasn't always positive and you can't have negative."
Watch Jackson speak with Cage Writer about his new existence (4:00 mark):
Working with fighters like Michael Bisping, jiu-jitsu coach Mario "Sucata" Neto plus holdovers Tiki Ghosn and Mike Dolce amongst others, Jackson says he has a group he can rely on now as opposed some of the unpredictable and unreliable folks that he was around in the Southern California:
"You gotta have strong people behind you to pump you up mentally as well. You get some people they don't know they're doing it but they'll say the wrong thing and bring you down mentally. When you have the right people around you they know what to say and when to say it."
Photographer/blogger Tracy Lee tracked Team Jackson while they were putting the finishing touches on this UFC 96 camp back in the U.K. Even a week before the trip across the pond, she came away with the same impression that this was a new, much more focused and happy Rampage. She pointed to guys like the unheralded Dolce as a huge positive:
Mike Dolce is Rampage's personal nutritionist and dietician. He prepares meals for Rampage to keep his strength up but his weight down.
Dolce is also a key on the physical end:
Mike Dolce was the first to take off running around the track. The other guys soon followed suit. Rampage had headphones in as he took off jogging. Dolce finished first and threw his hands in the air as if to say, "I won!"; he had lapped the guys a couple times at least.
It was also interesting to read about Jackson really taking interest in all facets of the game including honing his jiu-jitsu skills. Tracy has some photos and then Cage Writer witnessed the same thing as Jackson drilled ground work during workout day in Columbus on Wednesday.
Cage Writer is on the scene with a live fight blog on Saturday night. Check back after the fight for the only live UFC 96 postfight show from Nationwide Arena starting at 1:30 a.m. ET. You can listen here.
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