Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is finally returning to Japan and fighting in what could be considered home when talking about his MMA career.
It is only fitting that he is on the card, and when he does finish the fight against Ryan Bader at UFC 144, he needs to call it a career. Jackson is a lock for the UFC Hall of Fame and has had an incredible career.
He was able to unify the Pride and UFC title when he beat Dan Henderson and knocked out Chuck Liddell in the UFC in their rematch.
Still, he isn't the fighter he once was, and while he is still in his physical prime there are several factors which point to this being the perfect time for him to bow out.
Jackson made his career and character in Japan. He was a star in Pride, where he started his whole howling and chain-wearing gimmick.
He got many of his highlights from stepping into the ring with legends and lesser fighters. Pride was the perfect place for a skilled and entertaining fighter like Jackson to start.
In an article on MMAWeekly.com Jackson has even stated that he misses fighting in Japan and that he's appreciate another chance to compete there again.
Being able to say sayonara to a place that has such special meaning to his heart is a perfect last hurrah for an MMA great like Jackson.
Quinton Jackson is 33 years old.
By the end of June he will be 34.
That doesn't make Jackson ancient, but in MMA it does make him long in the tooth. He isn't getting any younger, and his competition is. Every year new fighters pour into the sport and eventually make it to the UFC.
For Jackson to keep his spot he is going to have to beat them. His opponent Ryan Bader is one of those young men, and while Jackson has enough to put away Bader right now, he won't a few years from now.
Like every sport (and its boxing counterpart especially), MMA has its cases of athletes competing dangerously past their prime and it would be a travesty to see Jackson join the ranks of fighters who overstayed their welcome.
He may have a year or two left, but it would be nice to see him retire before he absolutely has to.
He's earned it.
The fight with Bader isn't Jackson's first or anywhere near it.
Jackson started fighting in 1999 and has over 40 fights on his resume. One-fourth of them are losses, but most of those are to top-shelf competition.
That kind of resume brings some baggage. Those wars and losses add up after a time and the stress that even training brings wears out a fighter.
Jackson has already faced the training that was necessary to prepare for Bader and when he steps in the cage at UFC 144 he will again shorten his career with every blow he takes.
One day his body will betray him, but if he steps away from the sport he will beat it to the punch.
It ended up amounting to nothing as he returned to the UFC, but it showed that Jackson is willing to step away from fighting.
Jackson even mentioned on an ESPN podcast that he sometimes loathed the MMA style:
I hate fighting people who are scared. When you fight somebody who is scared, you never know what they’re going to do. They turn and run. That’s why I'm gonna go to boxing. I’m gonna try boxing because they’ve got to stand with you. If I get knocked out I don’t care because at least it’s a fight.
Jackson is getting fed up with overly strategic fighters, and that is only going to increase with time.
If Jackson doesn't love his job anymore he shouldn't do it. The rules aren't going to change so he needs to accept that fact or move on.
It sounds like he wants to move on.
Whenever a person starts to hate their job they need to either find the joy they once had for it or switch professions. It sounds like Jackson is getting to that point.
Japan would be a perfect time to take a bow and pursue something he enjoys, because MMA isn't going to change and, at this point, neither is Jackson.
Matthew Hemphill writes for the MMA and professional wrestling portion of Bleacher Report. He also hosts a blog elbaexiled.blogspot.com that focuses on books, music, comic books, video games, film and generally anything that could be related to the realms of nerdom.