Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is known for his tough exterior and for being an intimidating presence conveyed through the television. When typically seen on television, he has an intense scowl on his face, chain draped around his neck and is often pummeling a man with his fists.
But during the lead-in to his fight Friday night at Bellator 175 against Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, Jackson shed this persona in a candid and unexpected moment when asked about his biggest regrets during his MMA career in an interview on ESPN.
"I would have to honestly say that my biggest regret is even starting this sport," Jackson said. "I think I would've lived a different life if I would've stayed home in Memphis and worked at the family business. I'd be closer to my family and growing old with them instead of living out at California."
Jackson continued down that road, painting a picture of how his sister was just eight years old when he left home, and now she is an adult. Jackson missed all of her formative years. At a press conference, Jackson went on to talk about how he helped raise her and change her diapers, and as she grew older, helping her with her schoolwork and taking her to and from school.
All of that was sacrificed in the pursuit of a dream, and in return he lives in isolation and has sacrificed meaningful face-to-face interactions with loved ones. He was also exploited by managers and "people pretending to be friends," robbing him of the riches he sacrificed time with his family for in pursuit of climbing the mountaintop of MMA. While Jackson wasn't able to be there throughout the rest of his sister's youth, he was able to survive his financial struggles and help put her through college.
"I gained a lot of fans and made a lot of money but I feel like I lost my family," Jackson said. "I don't see them and I don't know them. My parents are getting older and I'm living in California away from them.
"I have my own family here, my kids and stuff, but I miss my cousins, my parents, my sisters and brothers."
A celebrity, who would presumably keep up walls, opened the door to his feelings. And not any celebrity, one who made his career by being an intimidating presence with the ability to dismantle the baddest men on the planet in the most violent of ways, the ultimate alpha male.
But the response wasn't all positive to him opening up. There were negative responses from fans. There were headlines Jackson didn't appreciate.
"Half the time when you do interviews, you get negative people in the world who want to spin words and get click bait, or just get people to listen to their interviews," Jackson said at the Bellator 175 press conference.
Oddly, it was Jackson's family who unintentionally introduced it to him on his Facebook timeline.
"The only way I knew there was a negative response, one of my cousins that I grew up with that I never see anymore because I live in California and fight, he posted on Facebook," Jackson said. "I was using the restroom so I read some of the stuff and most of it was negative, but I think most people on Facebook are negative.
"How can you get negative stuff out of me missing my family?"
Jackson noted that he had seen positive responses as well, and acknowledges that the world is a blend of uplifting and negative people. But the former UFC light heavyweight champion also begrudges the digital media who can look to slant comments to draw in readers, and in turn, revenue.
"That's when I feel like my words got twisted. It happens a lot. A lot of times you do interviews and people twist your words," Jackson said. "TMZ said something like I hate my male fans. I never said that, I said I wish I had more female fans, never said I hate male fans.
"When you're in the public eye and do interviews, your words get twisted and people put you in a negative light. I'm a human being, nobody likes that, nobody wants their words to be twisted and taken out of [context] and being seen in a negative light."
What irks Rampage the most is the rift it portrays between him and his fans, perhaps the one part of his success from his career he values the most.
"Especially someone like me, I really love my fans," Jackson said. "I love Rampage fans. I don't love all MMA fans, but I love Rampage fans. And I really want my fans to know that. I think my fans know when they come in contact with me.
"I stream live on Twitch and I play video games with my fans. All the new ones are like 'Wow, I didn't know you're like that.' Then my [subscribers] and my [moderators] tell them, 'Rampage loves his fans, he'll play video games with you and kick it with you.' I want my fans that support me to know I got much love for them, they're like my friends. It hurts when my words get twisted like that."
While even the most heartwarming and endearing of moments saw darkness creep in, Jackson can take solace in the fact that his family understands.
"My mom's twin brother's son, we're about the same age and we're the athletes of the family, he sent me a text. He's the only one that sent me a text about it. He told me my family understands and kind of broke it down," Jackson said. "I think I'm not close to my family anymore because I'm the one that lives away and stuff like that. It hurts being the only person, I'm the only one where I live. There is no family members there."
Jackson wonders about life if he would've stayed home, oblivious to the perks that come with celebrity, fame and fortune.
"I wouldn’t have known about having all this money and having all these fans," Jackson said at the press conference. "I wouldn’t have known anything about it. I would’ve been a construction worker, just like the rest of my family, and happy."