In his second fight with the UFC, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson knocked out Chuck Liddell to win the UFC light heavyweight title and began what he thought would be a very long, happy relationship with the promotion.
Jackson knew the day he signed his UFC contract that he was being brought in to face Liddell, who he had defeated in 2003 while competing under the Pride banner in Japan. What Jackson says he didn't know was how his relationship with the UFC and their employees would change after beating the company's golden boy.
"Dana White really wanted me because I was the last guy Chuck (Liddell) wanted to get his revenge on," Jackson explained when speaking to Bleacher Report. "Everybody was really nice to me, I'm telling you when I beat up Marvin Eastman, everybody, people behind the scenes at the UFC they're really like a big family.
"Chuck was part of the family. They was all really nice to me, like a hog going to the slaughter, and then after I beat Chuck right away like 90 percent of them hated my guts. They didn't talk to me no more, they didn't smile at me when I came back there, it made me feel awkward."
Jackson says the awkward feelings with the UFC employees were obvious to him anyways after dealing with hatred for a big part of his life based solely on the color of his skin. He'd never accuse anyone in the UFC of being racist, but he admits the feelings felt similar in some ways.
"You can tell when people don't like you. Especially being a black man born and raised in the South in America, you can tell when people don't like you," Jackson said. "It's just a skill that you get. I'm not saying people's racist or stuff or not, I'm just telling you when you deal with that, you can tell when people don't like you."
Jackson moved forward with his UFC career, unifying the UFC and Pride light heavyweight titles when he defeated Dan Henderson at UFC 75. His next sour experience with the promotion came one fight later when he lost the title to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86.
The fight was close on all the scorecards, but Jackson still believes to this day that he defeated Griffin. He was disappointed that the judges scored him losing the fight, but he was even more disappointed when the UFC didn't give him a rematch.
Jackson still managed to go back out and win two more big fights in a row over Wanderlei Silva and Keith Jardine before he was chosen to coach on The Ultimate Fighter season 10 opposite former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.
The two fighters engaged in one of the most heated and hate-filled feuds that the reality show had ever seen. When it was over, they were scheduled to settle the score at UFC 107 in Memphis—which also happens to be Jackson's hometown.
It was then that Jackson says his entire relationship with the UFC fell apart when he decided to forgo the fight with Evans in favor of filming his role in the film The A-Team. Jackson has spoken openly about how that one decision virtually severed his relationship with UFC president Dana White, but for maybe the first time ever he now says he knows he was wrong for making that choice.
"Dana and I had our disagreement when I went and did the movie. I was wrong, I did the movie instead of fighting Rashad (Evans) in Memphis. I admit I was wrong for doing that, but I had to do it," Jackson stated. "That killed our relationship and nothing went right after that."
Jackson did manage to make it back to another title shot after that situation, but following his loss to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, the former Pride fighter had seen enough of the UFC and just wanted out.
He finished the last two fights on his contract with losses to both Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira, essentially fighting on one leg according to Jackson, who has been dealing with knee issues. Jackson says he was so unhappy at that point in his career, he just wanted to finish out his contract and get away from the UFC. He just kept fighting, even when he knew he had no business being in the cage.
He also points out to a time when White spoke poorly about him after his fight in Japan against Bader. It was a sign that it was time to go.
"I'm not saying I don't make excuses, but I just keep it real. Fans can say it's making excuses, but to me I don't care," Jackson said. "I know a good, healthy, close to 100-percent Quinton Jackson can beat Glover (Teixeira) and Ryan Bader—both in the same night.
"After I fought injured for them in Japan and Dana kind of talked bad about me for missing weight and all this stuff. He said something different to my face. So he's going to be two-faced and all this other stuff, so I'm leaving."
The business of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is much better these days.
He signed a new long term, lucrative deal with Bellator Fighting Championships, TNA Wrestling and Viacom which will allow him to re-enter the entertainment business as well as get his fighting career back on track. He's about to start shooting a new reality show this Friday with four episodes airing this year, and around 10-to-13 episodes airing in 2014.
He's also developing a new movie that he wrote about the MMA world, which he calls "a MMA movie (Hollywood) should have made" with a part created specifically for him to star in the project as well. Jackson says the current MMA films that have been released just aren't accurate, and he hopes to make a much better version because "MMA fans know more about fighting than some fighters."
He's also dabbling in professional wrestling while healing his knee so he can return to action later this year.
Jackson says for the first time since he competed in King of the Cage from 2000 to 2002, he's got a promoter who understands him and is working with his best interests at heart.
"Bjorn Rebney, I haven't fought for him yet, but he's been legit on everything he's said. He'll look you in your eye and keep it real. These are the types of people I want to be in business with," Jackson said. "So far the only two promoters I liked was Bjorn Rebney and Terry Trebilcock from King of the Cage. The only two promoters that treated me well so far."
Jackson can't speak for other fighters and their relationship with the UFC, Bellator or any promotion. He just knows he's extremely happy with the deal he received, and he knows there are fighters out there that would be elated with a similar kind of contract.
One name that comes to mind is former Ultimate Fighter winner Roy Nelson, who Jackson dealt with during his time as coach on the reality show alongside Rashad Evans. Jackson would welcome a fighter like Nelson to Bellator—and then he'd slap him silly.
"What I've got to say is it worked for me. I'm more than just a fighter, I'm an entertainer, I like to entertain people," Jackson said. "Why stick with a place that wants to control everything and won't let you have certain sponsors, and only sticks to just fighting, and chew you up and spit you out when you can be with a company that wants you to get movies, wants you to get those big endorsements, helps you get those big endorsement deals."
"A person like Roy Nelson, a lot of people can relate to him. A lot of Americans look like him, especially where I come from in the South. Be honest, he's a lot of people's hero. I'm thinking he's the type of guy to get his own reality show. I think it would be a great show. Bellator's into promoting people, they're not just about promoting their brand. I wouldn't mind seeing Roy Nelson over where I'm at so I can knock his head off."
Knocking heads is what Jackson knows best, and while his head may be wrapped around a million different ideas right now, ultimately his home is still inside the cage. He's aware of the mistakes he made in the UFC and Pride for that matter, and he's got something to prove when he returns to action later this year.
It's not a chip on his shoulder or getting the fans back on his side. It's something personal for Jackson, because he knows he hasn't been at his best for the last few years. This old dog still has time to learn some new tricks.
"I know what's wrong with me. I know why I lose fights. If you don't know why you lost a fight or won a fight, you shouldn't be fighting. I know when I do right when I win, and I know what I do wrong when I lose," Jackson said. "I know what I've got to do to get back into the winning circle. I know what I've got to do."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted
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