LAS VEGAS – Wanderlei Silva doesn't even attempt to hide his disdain for Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
The culture of mixed martial arts is such that most fighters go to extremes to praise their opponents, even when such praise isn't warranted. Silva follows that unwritten code religiously.
He does, at least, under most circumstances. But when the conversation turns to Jackson, Silva's contempt for the man he defeated twice in the PRIDE Fighting Championship can't be controlled.
They'll meet for a third time on Dec. 27 at UFC 92 and, for one of the few times in his career, Silva is doing more than a bit of trash talking. The popular Brazilian doesn't like Jackson and is taking the bout far more personally than any other.
"There are few very people I don't like," Silva said. "Very few. Honestly. But of course, I don't like this guy. I just don't care for him. He jokes at bad moments. He's not the kind of guy I like. And so I am very thankful that I have the opportunity to fight him again."
Silva, the former longtime PRIDE 205-pound champion, scored a pair of devastating victories over Jackson when both fought in PRIDE. His knees and his kicks were the difference and in each fight, Jackson needed to be saved by the referee.
The losses haven't humbled Jackson, who said in an interview with UFC.com that he's not afraid of Silva and that he doesn't expect Silva to get lucky again.
Jackson didn't speak as if Silva's pair of resounding victories over him would matter.
"I think Wanderlei was very lucky the first two times I fought him, but I think his luck ran out," Jackson said during the UFC.com video interview. "He don't look lucky no more. He hasn't been looking lucky lately. His luck has run out."
It's that kind of brash smack talk that has made Jackson one of the most popular fighters in the world. But it's also the kind of talk that infuriates Silva.
And though Silva will likely get a light heavyweight title shot sometime in 2009 should he beat Jackson, that's not his primary motivation. He covets the belt, but not nearly as much as he covets putting another beating on Jackson, the former champion.
That's why their fight figures to be of the most interest to those in the MGM Grand Garden and those watching on pay-per-view, even though it's third on the card and two other fights will come after it.
"Every fighter wants to be [the champion] and I am no different," Silva said. "But whether I am champion or not, nothing has made me work harder and train better than the opportunity to fight this guy again. And you know what? I don't just want to beat him. I want to knock him out. Of course, I always go for the knockout, but with this guy, this is very important to punish him and get that kind of a finish. It's going to be a great fight."
Both men are predicting at least the Fight of the Night, if not the Fight of the Year. And it wouldn't be a shock were that to happen.
Much has changed since their last bout, which was held on Oct. 31, 2004, in Saitama, Japan.
Silva has gone just 5-5 in his 10 fights since and has split his two bouts since joining the UFC. He lost a slugfest to Chuck Liddell at UFC 79 before returning to knock out Keith Jardine in just 36 seconds at UFC 84 on May 24.
Jackson joined the UFC at the start of 2007 and won the light heavyweight belt by knocking out Liddell. He defended it in a PRIDE vs. UFC showdown against Dan Henderson before surrendering it to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86.
Silva concedes that Jackson is a far better fighter now than he was when they last met. Jackson, though, won't soon forget his knees, Silva said.
"Every fan wants to see this fight again because he's a big guy, a strong and tough guy, and he's improved," Silva said. "He is a lot better now. He's a different fighter. My two fights with him I think were probably the two best fights of my career.
"I think he'll remember my knees. My knees were very good. I don't think he's ever forgotten those knees. But I don't have just knees. I can fight him many different ways. My preparation for this fight, it's better than ever. My cardio, my mental training, my attention to the smallest things, I have worked so hard on all of them. I want to give the best show ever and I want him to remember me forever."
Jackson said he hasn't forgotten and wants to exact revenge. Like Silva, he also vowed to inflict plenty of punishment upon his rival.
"If I were Wanderlei, I wouldn't be looking forward to Dec. 27," Jackson told UFC.com. "I hope he has a great Christmas and spends a lot of time with his family, because Dec. 27, the 28th and New Year's, he ain't gonna be too happy."
It's that kind of talk, Silva said, that aggravates him so much. And he's happy he doesn't have to hear it much longer.
"He's got a big mouth and he's always out on the Internet talking," Silva said. "But we'll see how much talking he does once we fight again."
- Wanderlei Silva