CHICAGO – As Quinton "Rampage" Jackson exited the United Center on Saturday following a unanimous decision loss to Glover Teixeira, he eyed UFC president Dana White, his occasional friend and frequent enemy.
Jackson shouted, "You're going to miss me," when he spied White. White grinned and said, "I miss you already, buddy."
And off Jackson trudged into the bitter cold night toward an uncertain future. Feelings have been hurt and hackles raised and Saturday's bout had a feeling of finality to it.
Over the last several weeks, Jackson said to anyone who had a microphone that Saturday's bout would be the last of his UFC career. He was never quite clear what his plans would include – among the many options would be fighting for another MMA promotion, trying pro boxing or going full-time in acting – but he's been adamant that the UFC phase of his career is done.
He lost a clear unanimous decision to Teixeira, who accepted Jackson's challenge to stand and go toe-to-toe with him and won going away. Two judges had it 30-27 and a third 29-28 in what amounted to Teixeira beating Jackson at Jackson's game.
[UFC on Fox 6 results: Demetrious Johnson outlasts John Dodson in FOTN]
With his contractual obligations fulfilled once the final bell sounded, Jackson skipped the post-fight news conference, but the UFC released quotes from him in which he expressed gratitude for his fans.
"I kind of wish I fought smart and didn't get hit so much, but I always said I would rather lose a good fight than win a boring-ass one and the fans are telling me that was an exciting fight," Jackson said. "So I guess I'm sad, but not so sad. I fought like Rampage tonight. I tried to knock him out with every punch. It wasn't so smart, but if it was fun for the fans, I will take that and be OK with that."
This was a night to showcase a new generation of stars. Lightweight Anthony Pettis was nothing short of spectacular, stopping Donald Cerrone with a vicious kick to the body that left "Cowboy" crumpled in a heap in the center of the cage.
T.J. Grant took Matt Wiman apart with a series of brutal elbows in a bout that White said he told Grant and Wiman at the weigh-in on Friday "really mattered."
And Demetrious Johnson was outstanding in outworking John Dodson in a fast-paced fight to retain the UFC flyweight title.
The story of the night, though, was the swan song of Jackson. He joined the UFC in 2006 when the company bought an entire promotion, the World Fighting Alliance, to acquire his and Lyoto Machida's contracts.
In the six years since, the colorful Jackson scored some highlight-reel knockouts, but just as frequently created headaches for UFC management. He feuded with White about his decision to film "The A-Team" movie instead of taking a fight with Rashad Evans. He later ripped the company for the way it treated the fighters, but never was specific.
Even as his final days in the company wound down, there was never a clear answer about why he was so angry. There were whispers from some on his team that the company was taking its anger at him out on his teammates like Cheick Kongo and Rob Broughton, but nothing was ever made public.
If White knew, he wasn't saying and he wasn't of a mind to delve back into it.
"I don't know," White said when asked to assess Jackson's UFC legacy. "Rampage is one of those guys that I honestly believe if Glover was fighting anybody else, he would have knocked them out in the first round. Rampage got hit with that shot. Not only can he punch hard, he can take a punch.
"Rampage's biggest problem is that he doesn't always train. He doesn't always stay in shape. If he took this sport 100 percent hardcore serious, God knows what that guy might be able to accomplish. But he doesn't."
The irony in that is that a guy who was frequently criticized for failing to train was given a sponsorship deal with Reebok because the company viewed him as a fitness-training athlete.
Jackson may sign a contract to fight for Bellator, which is now the sport's second-largest promotion. But whether he would be interested in getting into a Bellator tournament, which would require him to fight three times in three months, is highly debatable.
He'll be expensive and it will be hard for Bellator to pay him what he wants when it wouldn't have a pay-per-view platform with which to recoup its investment. Plus, with Jackson 0-3 in his last three fights, it wouldn't look good for Bellator if Jackson went in and reeled off several consecutive wins.
A more likely scenario might be that he would fight one-off matches in Japan while keeping his hand in the entertainment field.
He helped lift Teixeira toward stardom on Saturday. Jackson and Teixeira embraced in the back after completing their medicals and Jackson told Teixeira he'd be rooting for him to win the UFC title.
It's hardly out of the question for Jackson to decide to return to the UFC, where he has a comfort level and a big platform to pitch his various projects.
He left Saturday, though, as just another dispirited guy who had lost his job and was headed to the cold to look for work.
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