When Rashad Evans climbed into the cage at UFC 96 in March following Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's victory over Keith Jardine and began jawing nose-to-nose with Jackson, many saw it as a stunt devised by the public relations and marketing wizards at the Ultimate Fighting Championship to drum up interest in a future pay-per-view fight.
But on Thursday, during a conference call to announce the coaches for the 10th season of "The Ultimate Fighter," Jackson proved conclusively that angry confrontation with Evans was no stunt.
Jackson declined a shot at the Ultimate Fighting Championship's light heavyweight title, currently held by Lyoto Machida, in order to coach against Evans on Season 10 and have the opportunity to fight him in December.
The show, which will premiere Sept. 16 on Spike TV, will be known as "The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights." From the way he sounded on Thursday, Jackson would have been willing to teach grandmothers how to knit if it would have gotten him a chance to fight Evans.
Jackson will be appearing on the show for the second time. He coached opposite Forrest Griffin last year on Season 7 and conceded he didn't like the job. UFC president Dana White offered Jackson either the title shot against Machida or the opportunity to coach on Season 10 and meet Evans.
Jackson didn't hesitate.
"Everybody knows I didn't like coaching because I'm a sore loser when it comes to stuff like that," Jackson said. "I was kind of upset about it and at first, I said I'd never coach again. But I have a good relationship with my first team and this time, I want to go out there and win.
"When I found out who I would be coaching against, I couldn't turn it down. You know, Rashad left a bad taste in my mouth. He got up in my face (following the UFC 96 fight) with his bad-ass breath. I'm from Memphis. We don't like that (stuff)."
Vengeance will be his primary motivation, but it won't be the only one. Jackson also displayed a practical side and, while noting that he wants to become "the best champion who ever lived," said coaching will give him a long time off between fights and will allow him time to learn the game.
The Ultimate Fighter 10 finale will be Dec. 5. Jackson will fight Evans later in December.
That would give Jackson more than nine months between fights.
"To be honest, I've been wanting to sharpen up on some of my skills," Jackson said. "I've wanted to get my wrestling back up to par, and my ground game. This gives me time to continue to heal up. I fought really hard for two fights.
"I trained really hard for the Wanderlei (Silva) fight (at UFC 92 in December) and then I went right into training for Jardine. This will give me time to be with my kids and sharpen up my skills. I'm doing this (because) this is my job, my life. I want to put my best foot forward and I want to be the best champion who ever lived."
Season 10 will mark Evans' second appearance on the show, but his first as a coach. Evans, who lost his championship when he was knocked out by Machida on Saturday in the main event of UFC 98, won the heavyweight title on Season 2.
The show will help make the men even bigger stars than they've already become. White said there is a direct corrolation between a fighter's appearance on TUF and his popularity, in terms of selling tickets, pay-per-views and merchandise.
"There's no doubt about it," White said of the show's ability to increase a fighter's marketability. "Let me put it to you this way. In 2006, Rashad Evans was a security guard in Detroit, Michigan. If that doesn't give you enough â¦ He headlined a pay-per-view last Saturday that did very well."
White declined to say how many fighters would take part, saying he'd make that and many other announcements at media day next week in Las Vegas.
He said Machida didn't want to coach, because he wants to stay busy. Machida had said on his website that he would defend his belt at UFC 103 in September, but White said Thursday that is not true.
White said he is working on an opponent for Machida, but declined to identify him. He said he could make an announcement as soon as Thursday afternoon, but said the possibility exists that the process could drag on. He wouldn't put a time frame on it, either.
- Rashad Evans
- Lyoto Machida
- Ultimate Fighting Championship