Originally published at The Well Versed
Wrote this before Jackson threatened to retire… again.
As a highly touted and exciting fighter from the PRIDE era, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson stepped into the UFC with a bang. He avenged a loss to Marvin Eastman at UFC 67 and then dispatched former UFC poster boy Chuck Liddell at UFC 71 to win the light heavyweight strap. He later unified the UFC and PRIDE titles in a decision win over Dan Henderson.
That was the “Rampage” of old.
The “Rampage” Jackson we saw at UFC 144 is a mere shell of the man who went on a tear through the light heavyweight division on two continents. The Jackson we saw go up against Ryan Bader looked nothing like a man with a 32-10 record. It’s not that fighters can’t lose fights. They can. It’s not that we shouldn’t expect fighters to lose fights. We should. The beauty of MMA is that it’s not like boxing. One loss doesn’t destroy a fighters’ career. When you’ve faced a who’s who of A list names like Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson, Jon Jones and “Shogun” Rua, you’re not expected to notch all W’s.
The issue with Jackson is not that he’s lost, it’s the way in which he loses and the way he talks about those defeats.
I don’t blame Jackson for not wanting to hang it up after that atrocious performance against Ryan Bader on Saturday. No fighter wants to go out on the receiving end of a blowout loss to a fighter he would likely beat in 9/10 contests (UFC 144 was that 10 percent).
In the interest of full disclosure, Jackson used to be my favorite fighter—hands down. I own the “Rampage” Jackson action figure and watching other fighters that look like me excel in the sport gives me a sense of pride (no pun intended). These days, however, watching Jackson fight is a throwback to the feeling I had when dealing with my absentee father. I was the kid wowed by grandiose promises of a day with dad that sat, sad faced by the window waiting for the car to pull up. I excused the first time, but as the disappointments mount, it’s difficult to get excited behind a string of broken promises and excuses.
And so it is with Jackson. He knocked out Wanderlei Silva in dramatic fashion at UFC 92. That was more than three years and six fights ago. Avenging two vicious losses and putting a cap on a vicious rivalry gave Jackson a career boost. In the run up to his subsequent fights, he’s all but guaranteed a knockout and in more pomp and circumstance moments, promised a return to the slamming “Rampage” Jackson that separated Ricardo Arona from his senses in Pride (to be fair, Jackson didn’t flatten Bader with a slam, but it was hardly the fight ender I’m sure he hoped for).
Six fights, six claims of knockouts. Zero knockouts. Of those six fights, three have been losses.
Jackson shouldn’t retire because his body can’t handle it anymore.
He should retire because his mind and heart aren’t in it.
It’s absolutely no secret that Jackson hates training for fights. And while not everybody should openly profess to love what they do, if I repeatedly wrote that I hated writing, I’d probably be questioned. Many of you would—rightly—ask why I continued to do it. The answer was obvious for Jackson, he needs to make money. However, for celebrities, there are plenty of way to make six figures that don’t involve getting punched in the face and stretching your body to the limit (and yes, I am alluding to the A-Team movie).
The problem isn’t just that Jackson hates training, it’s his approach to training. A game Jackson was mauled by Jon Jones last year. Losing to the young lion is certainly no blemish on a record, but it illustrates a bigger point—one that was highlighted by the UFC 144 loss.
The game has passed “Rampage” by.
MMA is no longer an era where fighters can get by being one dimensional. Modern day MMA can now boast of having fighters who can wrestle, strike, do jiu-jitsu and muay-Thai. “Jackson” is of the sprawl and brawl era. A wrestler who rarely wrestles. A fighter who neither throws, and is reluctant to check, kicks. The “stand and bang” mentality wins over fans. Winning fights? Not so much.
When a fighter faces Jackson they really only need to watch for the hook. A counter left to be more precise. That’s not going to get it done. Back in the day, expecting fighters to stand in front of you and slug it out used to be enough to win fights. Jackson has openly criticized opponents in the modern era for not being human punching bags (ask yourself, would you allow Jackson to punch you as hard as he could?). The new breed of fighter is not going to play to the strengths of the old “Rampage” and losing consciousness drastically shortens a career. Ask Silva and Liddell.
With dwindling prospects in the light heavyweight division and no desire to evolve, Jackson should do us all a favor and strongly consider hanging up the gloves.
The mouth that promotes fights will always be there. But eventually, the children will disappear from the window.
Love it? Hate it? Hit me on Twitter @simplyanthony and tell me about it.