Those who have forgotten may soon remember why Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was a former UFC champion and one of the most feared light heavyweights in the world.
In speaking Monday with Jackson in an exclusive interview, it was tough initially getting him to open up. Longtime fans of MMA know Jackson to be a fun, loveable prankster outside the cage, especially when dealing with fans and media.
But there was something different about this Jackson.
The incredibly low and ominous tone in his voice gave the impression of a man with his back against the wall, hellbent on proving the world wrong.
It has been nearly five years since fans have seen Jackson howling at the heavens while standing over an unconscious opponent’s limp body. Now that he is finally healthy, what can fans expect from the former UFC champ when he makes his Bellator debut Friday night against Joey Beltran?
Read on in my exclusive interview with the one and only Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Jordy: We’re just a few days out from your highly anticipated Bellator debut, and one look at some of the pictures you’ve posted on Facebook shows me a focused Rampage, who appears to be in some of the best shape of his career. Would you consider that an accurate assessment?
Rampage: Very accurate.
Jordy: What brought about this change?
Rampage: I got my knees fixed, and I feel good. I can train hard like I used to. You know, before my knees were bothering me, and it really hurt to do stuff, so I couldn’t train as hard as I wanted to.
Jordy: Most of the knee issues were due to the Jon Jones oblique kicks, right?
Rampage: Well, he hurt one of my knees, and the other I got injured in a training camp.
Jordy: In recent bouts against Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira, you dealt with injuries leading into those fights, but you still stepped up and fought anyway. In hindsight, do you regret those decisions?
Rampage: Yeah, it sucks to go out fighting at 50 percent, but at the time, I felt like I had to do it. I wanted to get my contract over with. I felt like I had to do it, and for some strange reason, I felt like I could still win even injured.
Jordy: It’s pretty crazy that you stepped in there anyway, and people were still criticizing you after those fights. What are your thoughts on some of those negative fans or quote, unquote Twitter haters?
Rampage: I don’t really think about them. I don’t give a [expletive] because if I read them hating on my Twitter, I just block them. Other than that, I don’t care. Those are the people who when they see you, they act all weird and say that they’re your biggest fan, and I call them male groupies.
They act like groupies and stuff when they see you. They’re like the fakest people on the planet. I just laugh at them really. They’re like lowlifes. They watch fighters, and they watch the sport. Evidently, they like it, but they can’t wait to hate on anybody who does bad because they’re jealous that they can’t do what we do. So that’s what they do. They do what they can do, just hate on Twitter.
Jordy: Do you feel like the UFC could have backed you up to some degree, like maybe mention the fact that you were competing injured?
Rampage: Yeah, they could have, but the UFC, they know what they wanted to do. Ever since I did the movie, they kind of wanted my name to go down a little bit I guess, so it’s kind of what they wanted. It’s all good. They knew I was injured, and it’s all good. Everything happens for a reason.
Jordy: How’s post-UFC life in Bellator so far?
Rampage: The energy here is a lot better, and that’s what it’s all about, you being happy with doing your job. I haven’t fought for [Bellator] yet, but standing backstage, the people are genuinely nice. When I was in the UFC, people stopped being nice to me the day I fought Chuck. The backstage people, the people the fans will never meet, the people that make the UFC, the people that run the UFC are back in the back, so you will never meet them.
Those people can make your job hard. The UFC still has some good people that work for them, but overall, it was hard even showing up there and being around a bunch of fake people. In Bellator, everybody is really nice and genuine, and you can tell.
Jordy: As a Bellator fighter, you’re getting an opportunity to do so many other things, like try your hand at pro wrestling. You’ve expressed in the past that you were a big pro wrestling fan growing up. Is that something you could see yourself doing on a more consistent basis in the future or maybe after you retire from MMA?
Rampage: Yeah, I think that it’s fun. You can go and entertain a whole different type of fans. I do MMA, but I feel like a pro wrestler at heart. That’s why I fight the way I fight in MMA. That’s why I slam people and stuff around. When I signed with Bellator and found out that I could do pro wrestling and stuff like that, I was really happy. I was like, "Wow, I can be a big kid, too." MMA is my love and being able to beat people up, but pro wrestling is like being a big kid. You can go around and everything is all different, just a different fanbase man. It’s a win-win.
Jordy: Nov. 15 is the big night. You were originally slated to fight Tito Ortiz, but he had to pull out due to the neck injury. How disappointed were you when you first heard the news?
Jordy: Is that a fight you would still be interested in?
Jordy: Well, Joey Beltran is the next guy up. What are your thoughts on him as an opponent and how do you see that fight ending?
Rampage: I think he’s a good opponent. He’s very tough, and he’s a brawler and a banger. Fighters like him are what made MMA popular. I could see it being a really good fight, a crowd pleaser. No matter what, I see me being victorious. I don’t think Joey can deal with what I got to bring on the 15th. I don’t think he can deal with it. I don’t think that many people in my weight class can deal with what I’m going to bring on the 15th.
Jordy: A couple of quick more questions Rampage and we’ll let you go. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us. You’ve always been really big into video games. What games are you currently playing?
Rampage: It’s nothing out really good right now man, I’m telling you. I wasn’t impressed with Ghosts (Call of Duty). They don’t even have capture the flag, and that’s what I mostly play on Call of Duty. I can’t even believe they put that game out. They didn’t even have survival on it. They had some stupid killing aliens or some stupid sh*t. I’m very disappointed in Call of Duty, so I’m actually not even really playing anything right now.
That’s why I’m so upset with video games. There’s a big void in video games right now. Video games should be like the best. We have online capabilities to play each other and stuff like that and they don’t even have a lot of stuff out there. It can be so much better. I got so many ideas for video games. I got a couple of video games in my head right now that I think could be real popular and sh*t, but I can’t believe they put this Call of Duty: Ghosts out.
Jordy: Do you ever get online?
Rampage: Yeah, I get online when there’s something to play. Actually, I’m back playing the old Call of Duty. I’ve been playing survival, that’s what I do. I don’t really play online. I play with my kids, and I play with my friends, but I haven’t been online that much recently.
Jordy: It can get kind of crazy online. I’m a black man with a Southern accent, so I just usually keep my mic on silent.
Rampage: Hold on, hold on. You’re a black man?
Jordy: Yep, with a Southern accent. What? Do I sound white?
Rampage: I thought you was white as hell.
Jordy: I’m actually from Tennessee.
Rampage: Dude, I’m from Tennessee, and you sound like one of those white dudes from Tennessee. You should be good with your mic.
Jordy: (Laughing) Last question, Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard recently said he’d step in the cage for $10 million. If you could fight any celebrity or athlete from any sport, who would it be?
Rampage: My job is to fight. I’d fight anybody; I’d fight [Dwight Howard] if they tell me.
Jordy: Well Rampage, it truly is an honor to speak with you. I was excited about the opportunity. You’ve been one of my heroes and an inspiration of mine growing up. Good luck in your fight against Beltran.
Rampage: Thanks man, I thought you was a white dude.
Jordy: Nope, I’m black. I was hoping you’d be able to fight on that Memphis card back at UFC 107, but you had to pull out?
Rampage: That’s when I did the A-Team movie. I wanted to fight on that card, too, but I’ve been asking Bellator to do a fight in Memphis, so it could happen.
Jordy: I’m praying it does. It would be awesome to see you fight in Memphis.
Rampage: I look forward to meeting you so I can see if you’re really white or black because I think you’re lying. I think you’re a white dude.
Jordy: We’ll definitely have to set that up whenever you come back to Tennessee.
Rampage: All right brother, take care.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.