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Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale:

Jardine hoping for a new beginning as of Saturday night

Former TUF cast member looks to avoid fourth straight defeat, salvage UFC career

Image

Associated Press

Keith Jardine, right, connects with a punch during a UFC fight against Chuck Liddel in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007. Jardine knocked down and upset former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell (20-5) by split-decision at the Honda Center.

It was only a matter of time before the question came out, because when it comes to UFC veteran Keith Jardine, it's the only question on anyone's mind.

Does he feel pressure entering Saturday's fight at the Ultimate Fighter 11 finale against Matt Hamill, knowing that his career with the organization could be hanging in the balance?

"No," he said quickly. "I'm not really worried about that."

Having lost his last three fights, including back-to-back ones by knockout, Jardine's best approach might be trying not to think about the future. He admits that a few good soul-searching sessions with his coaches were needed before beginning his recent training camp.

"I've always worked hard," he said. "I've set my coaches down and said, 'I can't possibly work any harder. There's something wrong with what I'm doing with my camp.'

"We started to figure out when I'm doing good stuff, when I'm doing bad stuff. Now I have the best understanding I've ever had of myself as a fighter. I'm excited to go out and show what I've learned."

No, Jardine isn't changing who he is at the core as a fighter.

He still fancies himself as primarily a stand-up fighter, and if he's able to keep his fight against Hamill — a strong wrestler — from going to the ground, Saturday night could prove to be a relaunching point, of sorts, for Jardine's career.

Oddly enough, it's coming in the same forum where it all started.

Including a victory over Kerry Schall at the Ultimate Fighter 2 finale Nov. 5, 2005, Jardine won four of his first five fights with the organization, including a résumé highlighting victory over Forrest Griffin at UFC 66.

But in four of his last five losses, the stand-up game has bit him hard in the form of knockout defeats.

He said he'll be showing some more versatility from now on, as he feels his wrestling has improved.

On top of training with long-time training partner Rashad Evans in preparation for this weekend, also joining their camp for a time was Strikeforce light heavyweight champ "King Mo" Lawal, who, like Evans, was an accomplished NCAA wrestler.

Another change Jardine had to make was in his overall fight preparation, which he admits was loose in the past and helped lead to his skid.

"One of the main things is it seems like in the past I used to just wing it," he said. "Sometimes my good qualities would come out, and sometimes they wouldn't. Now it seems like I have a much better sense of purpose. This is going to be great.

"Now that I feel like I'm restarting my career and my climb to the top again, I feel like this is the perfect place. It couldn't be any more perfect."

A fresh start means throwing everything out.

On top of blocking the bad losses out of his memory, Jardine said he's also throwing away his signature victories.

As a long-time pay-per-view attraction for the UFC, Jardine added that he's glad this fight will be on Spike, hoping that more people can see him start the next phase of his career.

His ideal ending? A title shot, plain and simple.

It's a long way away, but it has to start somewhere.

"I wouldn't say a crossroads, but it's just kind of a new beginning for me," he said. "I want to get rid of all of the good things and bad things I've done in the past. I just want to get rid of it and start over, start a new record."

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