During last weekend's airing of Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, a preview was shown for UFC 107 in Memphis.
While the main event, a lightweight title fight between BJ Penn and Diego Sanchez, is incredibly intriguing, one can't help but recall the original plan for this fight.
Just a few months ago, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was set to take on Rashad Evans in Memphis in order to settle a score fueled by a season together as opposing coaches on the most recent edition of "The Ultimate Fighter." After watching just one promo, fans were salivating at the idea of this heated rivalry climaxing in what could've been the most brutal fight of the year.
Instead, Jackson decided to take the role of B.A. Baracus in the upcoming film "The A-Team." At first, this was merely a delay for the fight with Evans. Instead, after Dana White sounded off on Jackson's decision, Rampage decided to retire from the UFC, officially ending the possibility of a blockbuster bout against Evans and somewhat ruining this season of "TUF."
However, for one who has paid attention to this year's "TUF," is Rampage's retirement really that blindsiding?
Think about it. The knock on Rampage Jackson has always been about how he lacks the passion and dedication to be an elite UFC fighter. People constantly noted how Jackson hated the concept of training for fights. Even in his retirement statement, Jackson seemed to have a complaint about almost every fight he's had in the organization (too short notice, not the ideal opponent, fans against him for fighting Chuck Liddell, etc.).
Instead, Jackson always seemed to be focused more on being remembered for his personality and stage presence. Thus, when White called him out for taking on a movie role rather than going through with a fight he demanded, Jackson took offense and called it quits.
Like many, I too was surprised to hear that Rampage would toss away his fight with Evans and retire. Their interactions on "TUF" are so heated, they left many to imagine just how intense their fight would be. Tickets for UFC 107 were sure to sell by the thousands with each episode.
But it wasn't until I watched a few episodes from this season of that I realized just how uncommitted Jackson is to anything else beyond himself.
As of right now, Team Rampage is down 0-6 to Team Evans. Only two of the fights have actually gone the distance of two rounds. The others ending in weak TKOs (Roy Nelson vs. Kimbo Slice) or quick submissions (Wes Sims vs. Justin Wren). At this point, one has to wonder if many of these results can be blamed on the coaching.
Watching Rashad Evans coach, you can see the dedication and intelligence which has made him the fighter he is today.
He and his staff strategically broke down each contestant when deciding their team picks. He takes time with each of his fighters to help them improve any flaws they may have and spends as much time as he can giving out final advice before fights. You get the sense that Evans cares about his team and is driven to help them succeed.
To get the exact opposite feeling, look no further than Team Rampage.
Did Jackson pick Kimbo Slice because he believed he could turn him into a fighter, or because he's a big name and wanted to make sure he didn't end up on Team Evans? (Rampage picked Slice well before any preliminary workouts.) Did he pick Abe Wagner to fight Jon Madsen because he felt Wagner's striking could overshadow Madsen's superior wrestling, or because Wagner was simply taller and bigger than Madsen? (Madsen eventually pummeled Wagner.)
Lately, Jackson is skipping out on pre-fight warm-ups to get food while also refusing to console his fighters after a loss. After one fight, Jackson complained to his coaches about how "green" his fighters were. Aren't these the fighters Jackson himself determined would be leading his team to victory?
Let's not forget the most recent episode, where Evans was prepping Darrill Schoonover with fight strategy while Jackson was psyching up Zak Jensen by constantly insulting Schoonover and referring to him by his less-than-flattering nickname.
In the end, it all adds to the presumption that Rampage's world doesn't extend very far beyond himself. When his team loses, he's less concerned over his fighters losing self-esteem and more concerned with looking bad for putting these men in the octagon and losing to an enemy.
Let's face it: Rampage Jackson is an enigma, as confusing as they come.
Why would someone spend one day screaming "I want my belt back" and talking about knocking out Rashad Evans, only to follow it up by choosing a movie role over said fight?
Why would a coach claim to be focused on his team winning, but instead puts more effort into playing practical jokes on the opposing squad while said group continues to obliterate everyone on Team Rampage?
It all comes back to the original point — when it comes to his career in the UFC, Rampage Jackson was more focused on making himself look good than he was in becoming a top-notch fighter. It was noticeable early on and is more than evident in watching "Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights," which could very well be the last UFC event Jackson takes place in.
Will Rampage ever find his way back into the UFC octagon?
But if his attitude remains the same and he still needs a separate locker room for his ego, expect him to exit even quicker this time around.