By Thomas Gerbasi
After a disappointing run in his first stint as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson would probably have been given a pass if he decided not to return to Octagonside for this season’s edition of the Spike TV reality show. But when told that the man he would be coaching against would be light heavyweight rival Rashad Evans, Jackson eagerly agreed to match wits with “Suga” before the two actually throw hands in their highly anticipated future bout.
“Rashad’s got a big mouth, and I’m gonna shut it up, simple as that,” said Jackson. “Some people talk too much. I talk a lot, I like to joke around, I like to have fun, but it’s nothing serious. I can talk about somebody and make them laugh about themselves and not get too personal.”
But after Jackson’s UFC 96 victory over Evans’ teammate Keith Jardine in March, things got very personal when Evans entered the Octagon and squared off against ‘Rampage’ with a packed house at the Nationwide Arena and a worldwide television audience looking on. What ensued was a fevered barrage of trash talk between the two former light heavyweight champions, and suddenly, this feud took on a life of its own, with the two barely able to stay in the same room together without throwing barbs at each other.
“Hopefully this season of heavyweights is better than the one on his season because if he won, they must have been some crappy heavyweights,” said Jackson, pointing to Evans as they filmed a Spike TV promo spot.
It’s all part of what has made Jackson one of the most popular mixed martial artists in the world, first in Japan’s PRIDE organization, and most recently in the UFC, where he has gone 5-1 since his debut in the Octagon in 2007. Included in that two year stint has been a knockout of Chuck Liddell that earned him the UFC light heavyweight crown, and wins over Jardine, Dan Henderson, and Wanderlei Silva. Jackson’s only loss in the UFC was a close decision in 2008 to Forrest Griffin, ironically the same man who put three fighters, including the eventual winner, Amir Sadollah, into the semifinals against Jackson during the seventh season of TUF. This second time around though, “Rampage” promises a reversal of fortunes.
“I got some good guys on my team,” said Jackson. “I’ve got some big guys, they’re tough, and they’re ready to go. I already asked my guys ‘who’s ready to fight’, and everybody raised their hands. They’re growling like wolves, like dogs, and they’re ready to attack his (Evans’) team.”
And really, that’s the bottom line for Jackson – beating Evans.
“I’m here to win, and I’m here to get under his skin by whuppin’ his team’s ass,” said Jackson. “I want to beat him real bad as a coach. I want to beat him down, I want to break his spirit, I want to hurt his ego, and I just want to whup up on him real bad and show him that I’m the best coach.”