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UFC’s best not burdened by holidays

Fighters on December’s stacked card plan to celebrate after the fact

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Tiffany Brown

Forrest Griffin lands a punch on Quinton “Rampage” Jackson during their light heavyweight title fight at Mandalay Bay. Griffin took the title by unanimous decision.

If You Go

  • What: UFC 92: The Ultimate
  • When: Dec. 27 (Doors open at 4:30 p.m., first bout begins at 5:15 p.m. PDT)
  • Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
  • Tickets: $75-$800, www.mgmgrand.com or MGM Grand box office.
  • TV: Pay per view, $44.95

‘Tis the season … unless you’re a mixed martial artist who's been cooped up in the gym training for the last two months.

“I never really liked the holidays anyway,” said a monotone-sounding Forrest Griffin, during a teleconference Tuesday when he was asked if it’s difficult to train during the holiday season.

Griffin’s challenger for the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title, Rashad Evans, sounded only slightly less like Ebenezer Scrooge in his response to the reporter’s inquiry.

“I’ve been in camp for about seven weeks now. I guess all the holidays have kind of lost their significance,” said Evans, of his match at UFC 92: The Ultimate on Dec. 27 at the MGM Grand.

“It’s going to be sad that I’m not going to be there with my kids and everything, cause I really look forward to that. It’s just going to be another day and then we’ll celebrate later on.”

Maybe somewhat surprising was the perceived toughest guy on the call, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, uttered the least bah humbug sentiment of them all.

“They’re going to come see me on the 25th and everything,” Jackson said of his four children. “Then we’ll celebrate Christmas afterwards.

“It’s all good, it’s my job. All my kids know what dad does — I’m a fighter. That’s the job that God gave me.”

Jackson (28-7) wouldn’t talk about his arrest or the legalities surrounding the reckless driving incident that occurred in California after he lost his light heavy championship to Griffin in July.

Instead, he praised his recent training session with his Wolfslair fight team in England, and how the intense program has prepared him for his upcoming bout against Wanderlei Silva (32-8-1).

“I was really jazzed when I learned he signed on to fight me,” said Jackson, who has lost to “The Axe Murderer” twice before in Japan's PRIDE Fighting Championships.

“So what he beat me back in the past. That’s what it was, the past. This is the whole new Rampage, a whole new beginning. This is my time.”

Griffin, who warmed up to reporters’ questions later in the call, said he mostly enjoys his time at the top inside his own house, away from the attention of everyone trying to get a piece of the champ.

“People do want a lot of your time. If you don’t do anything, it’s hard for people to bother you,” said Griffin, who said other than getting out to go to the store, he only leaves home for the gym to prepare for his next opponent.

In this case, that means the red-hot Evans (17-0-1), who was building quite a reputation even before knocking out legend Chuck Liddell at UFC 88 in Atlanta.

“He’s explosive, athletic, got the great wrestling background and got some really powerful striking,” Griffin said of Evans.

“He’s knocked people out with hands, feet and standing down on the ground. He’s knocked people out everywhere with different things.”

Evans said he’s the one trying to keep pace with his fellow reality TV show alum from "The Ultimate Fighter."

“Ever since I came off the show I’ve been trying to keep up with Forrest," he said. "He set the tone coming off the show. I got to show everybody I can do my thing as well and it wasn’t just a reality show. I have skills. For us to be in the position we are right now, it shows the show works and that guys like us are the fighters of the future.”

Two more TUF participants, well, coaches actually, also square off in the end-of-the-year show’s stacked card when Frank Mir (11-3) meets interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (31-4-1).

The winner will then fight current heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar for the outright title sometime next year.

Andy Samuelson is a sports writer/editor for the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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