Has time away changed Quinton Jackson or is UFC getting same-old 'Rampage'?

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
Bellator: «Μεγάλα» σχέδια για Quinton Jackson
Bellator: «Μεγάλα» σχέδια για Quinton Jackson

He sounded nothing like the gregarious, fun-loving guy who first signed with the UFC in 2007 and quickly punched his way to a world title.

Fame, and the realities of business life, have taken a lot of joy of the fight game from Rampage Jackson.

The former light heavyweight champion, who once derided the promotion's management by tweeting that UFC stood for "u fight cheap," said he's learned much about life and business in the last eight years.

He wound up back with the UFC after he said the multi-year contract he signed with Bellator in 2013 was breeched by Viacom, Bellator's parent company, and not rectified within the 45-day window specified in his contract.

Bellator president Scott Coker disputes that and says the company has a legitimate contract with Jackson. He has to at least go through the motions of fighting to protect his rights, or else he'd open the gangplank for anyone to walk whenever they felt like it.

That said, does anyone really believe that Viacom will spend millions of dollars to keep a 36-year-old slugger who is past his prime and who didn't move the needle much on Bellator's pay-per-view?

Jackson was also unhappy about the way he was matched in his final bouts with the UFC, complaining that he too frequently was paired against wrestlers who weren't interested in standing and slugging it out.

Given that, he was asked why he'd ever return to a company he spoke of with such contempt.

Rampage's last UFC fight was a decision loss to Glover Teixeira. (USAT)
Rampage's last UFC fight was a decision loss to Glover Teixeira. (USAT)

He had a ready answer.

"A lot of things changed," Jackson said in a somber voice. "I thought the UFC was the worst people on the planet. I thought they were the worst organization, but I was wrong. I admit when I was wrong. And I was wrong."

He wouldn't go into specifics about his dispute with Bellator, but said it wasn't about money or matchmaking.

"It was about other things," Jackson said. "I did a deal with Viacom and they didn't do stuff they said they were going to do. It always boils down to money at the end of the day, but if they would have honored their contract, I would have been happy and I wouldn't have said anything."

UFC president Dana White is going into the deal with his eyes wide open. Few know Jackson as well as White and White told Yahoo Sports on Monday that he's not expecting any changes.

He's going to get the same old Jackson, he believes, and he's good with that.

"Rampage is Rampage and he's always going to be that way," White said. "He's been around a long time and I don't think we're going to see anything any different. His personality is what it is. Sometimes, he's up and he's excited and other times, he's not as happy.

"I have never had a problem with Rampage. I think we've always had a pretty decent understanding. There is always a scenario where guys want to make more money, and that's never going to go away. No matter how much you're paid, you're always going to want to make more and that hasn't changed and it isn't going to [change] any time soon."

Jackson noted that the entire payroll for Bellator's last card was $600,000 and said "I wouldn't fight anyone for $600,000."

He said he didn't know enough about the anti-trust lawsuit filed against the UFC to comment on it, though he said he would support fighters who needed his support.

He said if there were attempts to unionize the fighters, he'd be willing to lend his name, but said that boxing has been around for more than 100 years and there still isn't a fighter's union in that sport.

"I don't know if [unionization] is going to happen, but if it does happen, I would love to support it because I feel bad for my fellow comrades who don't do well in MMA," Jackson said. "I'm fortunate enough to be one of the few guys to be successful in MMA. I've always prided myself on standing out and being different. I want to be one of those fighters who is a brand that stands out.

Rampage has rattled off three straight wins in Bellator. (Getty)
Rampage has rattled off three straight wins in Bellator. (Getty)

"I feel like if there are other fighters who might not be successful in MMA, it might be their own fault. I go out there and I entertain people and I put on exciting fights, win or lose. A lot of fighters damage themselves by going out and being mundane and just trying to get the 'W' because they're worried about their friends are going to say or are worried about whatever."

But Jackson said there is a price to pay for his level of fame and isn't sure he'd want to be famous if he had to do it all over again.

He can't go out and run his errands or eat a meal with family without being mobbed by fans. It has its benefits, he admitted, but he said there are a lot of downsides to it that the average person doesn't get.

"Not only do we put our lives on the line and our health on the line, but we're so accessible because we've fought in the big show," he said. "Take me. If I fight, and I lose, the next day, the next weekend, I might be out with my kids and I'll be at the gas station pumping gas and someone walks up to me and reminds me of my loss. That's stuff we have to live with that doesn't happen to everybody else.

"I don't have no big bodyguards and I can't afford to be at some random gas station pumping my own gas or in the grocery store getting my own groceries. Everybody knows us. Everybody watches MMA. So many celebrities know me now just because I fought in the UFC. As fighters, we're not celebrities in our heads. We just have a bunch of dudes come up to us.

"Celebrities have everyone: Women, kids, old ladies, old men. To us, we're not celebrities. We're just alphas, just regular men and we're very accessible. Me, I love fighting and I'd probably fight for free. But I'd most definitely like to get paid for the [fan] interaction and the no privacy I have."

Jackson said he wants to get into training camp and hopes to fight early in the year. White just returned to work on Monday from a vacation in Fiji, and now UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta is out on vacation. After the holidays, White said he'd talk with Fertitta to map out a plan for Jackson.

Jackson is ready to go and said it is a fulfilling feeling to be able to knock another man out.

But it's also fulfilling to be able to provide for one's family. He said he has invested his money to where he'd be able to live comfortably once his fight career is over and he doesn't think he'll have to get another job to support himself.

He urged young fighters to invest their money and to keep their financial business to themselves.

"I hope some other fighters can learn from us and do things and be something and be smart, buy some land, buy some property, things like that," he said. "Don't tell your friends about it. Let your friends think you're struggling because sometimes your friends won't always be your friends. … Sometimes your friends get jealous of you. Know that and invest your money and keep it all quiet. Do it but don't tell 'em."

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