Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008 | 2 a.m.
While the Ultimate Fighting Championship was enjoying arguably its best year ever in 2008, one of the promotion’s highest profile fighters endured a difficult, downward plight.
First Quinton “Rampage” Jackson lost his light heavyweight title on July 5 to Forrest Griffin. Next came an even more humiliating scene as Jackson was arrested in Southern California 10 days later for felony hit-and-run, misdemeanor reckless driving and evading arrest charges.
The next day, the 30-year-old Memphis, Tennessee native was taken back into custody for a mental evaluation.
UFC president Dana White said the official cause for Jackson’s series of wrecks that included running into a pregnant woman, who later suffered a miscarriage, was delirium caused by exhaustion.
Jackson refuses to talk about the incident or his upcoming January hearing, but admitted in a televison interview with the UFC that he’s been through a lot in the half year since he last stepped into the Octagon.
“I don’t have a whole lot to joke around about. I mean business,” said Jackson (28-7), who faces a man he’s lost to twice before in Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92 on Saturday night at the MGM Grand.
Business for Jackson meant a series of self-imposed life changes.
He got rid of trainer Juanito Ibarra and signed with Wolfslair Academy camp in Widnes, England, where he endured a self-described butt-kicking during his European training session.
“It was kind of like a cold area so I had to man up and train hard,” Jackson said. “I had to get down and get nasty and get dirty and get ugly.”
Jackson also gave up one of his favorite indulgences for his upcoming bout — fast food.
“I’m a professional athlete. I’ve got to start eating like one. I should've been doing this type of stuff years ago,” said Jackson, who said after giving up a diet that consisted primarily of junk food, he was able to tap into a reserve energy level that his opponents and training partners always seemed to reach, but he never could.
Jackson said his setback to Griffin, a decision he disputes on a daily basis, helped fuel his reinvention as a fighter.
“My last fight was probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Jackson, who had reeled off six straight mixed martial arts victories prior to the loss.
“I got rid of some old baggage. I’m more hungry. I trained the hardest I’ve ever trained before.”
That theory will likely be put to the test Saturday against Silva, who beat Jackson twice with brutal knee strikes when the two stars squared off in Japan’s former PRIDE promotion.
The colorful Jackson, who has drawn the ire of Silva before with his war of words, discounts both of the "Axe Murderer's" victories over him — including the second one on Halloween 2004 that ended with an unconscious Jackson draped on the ropes dripping blood from a freshly broken nose.
“So what he beat me back in the past. That’s what that was, the past,” Jackson said. “This is a whole new Rampage, a whole new beginning.”
Andy Samuelson is a sports writer/editor for the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.