(UFC 96 – the shot across the bow.)
If Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans fight is half as entertaining as their war of words, UFC 114 could be one for the ages. The two former light heavyweight champions continued their verbal sparring on Tuesday during a media conference promoting the May 29 event. The winner will get a shot at Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and the light heavyweight title, but the title shot is currently a footnote to one of the most antagonistic relationships in MMA history.
“These two have eclipsed any grudge match we’ve ever had,” UFC president Dana White said. “When you have two of the best fighters in the world, it’s fun. But when they don’t like each other, it’s even better.”
The animosity between the two fighters bubbled to the surface after UFC 96. A face-to-face, in-cage confrontation ended when Jackson famously declared there would be “black on black crime.” The rivalry increased when both were tapped as coaches for the 10th season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” The entire season seemed to revolve around Jackson and Evans’ frequent arguments. The tone was similar Tuesday as the media conference devolved into Jackson and Evans yelling at each other through the phone. They interrupted and spoke over each other so often and so loudly that much of the event was a cacophony.
“Don’t fool yourself. This is a sport but it is the fight game,” White said. “These guys don’t like each other. It doesn’t get any more real than this.”
Unfortunately, much of the trash talk was unprintable or centered on racial (Evans called Jackson an “Uncle Tom”) and sexual epithets (Jackson called Evans “gay”).
Point of order: There has been debate on both sides about exactly who ducked who during previous attempts to bring the fighters into the cage. Jackson, Evans and White combined to reconstruct a history none could remember on their own. After Jackson beat Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92, he requested a fight with Evans, who was then the UFC champion. Evans declined, citing the recent birth of his child. The two were expected to fight after Jackson beat (Evans’ training partner and friend) Keith Jardine at UFC 96, but injuries sidelined Jackson. The two were supposed to fight after TUF 10, but Jackson “retired” from fighting to pursue an acting career.
“You had your baby and I had mine,” Jackson said.
“So now we’re even. You had your reason and I had mine,” Evans said. “We’re the same. But I would never have turned down a fight in my home town.”
“I ain’t nothing like you homie,” Jackson replied. “You play with your nipples and act all gay and wear nut-hugger shorts.”
The exchange was typical.
After Jackson tried to dismiss Evans as a worthy opponent, Evans snapped, “Hey I was a world champion!”
Jackson: “Hey Rashad, where is your belt?”
Evans: “Where is YOUR belt?”
Jackson: “I got three of them homie!”
Evans: “Shut the hell up. You don’t got a belt.”
Jackson: “You don’t got a belt either.”
Evans: “Well neither of us do.”
Jackson: “The best thing about this is we get to see in two weeks.”
Evans: “Let me know what I can do to help you be your best.”
Jackson: “Just show up.”
Evans: “Hey did you get that package I got for you.”
Jackson: “Keep playing these little boy games. I’m a grown ass man.”
After Jackson referred to Evans’ attempts to jaw with Lyoto Machida before being knocked unconscious at UFC 98.
Jackson: Who talks when they are about to get knocked out?
Evans: I’ve got big balls. At least I wont quit like you did against Shogun… laying in the corner, holding your ribs. You ain’t got no heart. You’re the (expletive) Tin Man. Go see Oz.
As both fighters mocked each others’ wins over their friends.
Jackson: “You’re happy with little wins over (Michael) Bisping.”
Evans: “You looked horrible against (Keith) Jardine.”
Evans: “Did Forrest (Griffin) beat you?”
Jackson: “No, Forrest didn’t beat me, I beat myself. You’re weak, Rashad.”
And after Jackson asked reporters not to use big words and claimed ignorance as to when he was shooting his most recent movie.
Evans: (Expletive) you’re not stupid. Stop acting like just because you’re black, you’re stupid. I can’t stand that attitude. Hey Quinton, quit pretending you’re stupid. You know the dates you were filming the movies.
Occasionally they discussed their upcoming bout. Here are the condensed thoughts of the fighters regarding UFC 114:
“Rampage” is the only fighter to consolidate Pride and UFC championship belts after victories over then-UFC champion Chuck Liddell and reigning Pride champion Dan Henderson. He was eight of his last nine bouts. The lone loss (Forrest Griffin at UFC 86) cost him the UFC title. He walked away from the sport in 2009 to pursue an acting career and reprise Mr. T’s role of B.A. Baracus in the film version of “The A-Team.” Jackson (30-7) has fought once in the last 17 months. A victory over Evans will give Jackson a rematch with Shogun Rua, who broke Jackson’s ribs in 2005.
On his time away from the cage – “Me taking time off proved to be good for my body. I sustained a lot of injuries. I fought some fights back to back. Everybody knows I hurt my jaw a week before the Wanderlei fight and then had to fight Jardine right after with a hurt jaw. I’m glad I took some time off. I needed it.”
On MMA vs. movies – “I already forgot I did a damn movie. The movie has been done a long time ago. I don’t think about the movie. I’m thinking about this fight. If they do a sequel… we’ll cross the bridge when we come to it. I fight for money. I work. I’m about making the most I can make. That’s real.”
On fighting Evans – “This IS the tune up fight. Rashad has no title. He couldn’t even hold on to the belt after one fight. So why am I fighting this guy. He has done nothing compared to what I have done. Fighting this guy is a step backwards.”
On bad blood – “I don’t like the way he talks to me. He’s real fake and real cocky for someone who has never done much in this sport. He knocked out Liddell and the other fat guy with a head kick. His head blew up like a hot air balloon. After that I decided I didn’t like him. I wanted nothing to do with him. This is the first time I’m actually going to enjoy beating someone.”
On a rematch with Shogun Rua – “I see the universe opening up for me. This is my time. That Shogun fight haunts me. I never should have taken the fight. I was injured. I was young and it ended up costing me. Even now, Rashad talks about it. If I have to put Rashad ‘s face in mud to get back to those nightmares I have, that’s fine.”
On training – “You are going to see a brand new Rampage. I trained 13 weeks for this fight. This is the longest training camp I ever had.”
On Evans’ skills – “Rashad has fast punches and pretty good takedowns. I’m not underestimating him at all. This will be a really good test for me. I’m not underestimating anyone ever again. I learned that from Forrest. I didn’t train properly. I was way overweight. Everything happens for a reason. I didn’t lose that fight to Forrest. I beat myself. “
On meeting Evans – “I met Rashad back in the day when he was fighting Gladiator Challenge and he was fighting my homie Hector Ramirez. Hector broke his ankle in the cage and Rashad was dancing around like he did something, playing with his nipples. After that, Rashad wanted to train with me, but I thought he disrespected my teammate.
(Evans is hoping for a similar outcome on May 29.)
A former Michigan State wrestler, “Suga” won the second season of “the Ultimate Fighter” at heavyweight before dropping top 205 pounds. He won the light heavyweight title by stopping Forrest Griffin at UFC 92. Evans (14-1-1) lost his first title defense to Lyoto Machida at UFC 98. It was his first loss and the first time he had been knocked out. He is coming off a unanimous decision win over Thiago Silva in January.
On first meeting Jackson – “He was my favorite fighter. He was my dude. He was one of the reasons I wanted to get into fighting. If he whoops me or I whoop him, we’ll probably fight again. After the fight is over, we’ll probably be cool for a minute.”
On Rampage’s training – “I’m not going to be underestimate him. I’m probably going to be fighting the best Quinton I ever fought.”
On fighting Jackson – “(Jackson asks) who am I to fight him? Who is he to fight me? I beat Forrest and he couldn’t even beat Forrest.”
On why he dislikes Jackson – “He says ignorant stuff. He does his little Sambo thing. Oh, black-on-black crime. Oh, don’t use big words. I’ve talked to this dude. He’s pretty smart. Why perpetuate the stereotype that you are stupid?”
On training – “You cant get ahead of yourself and overtrain just because you don’t like the person. Its been kind of fun to be honest because anytime I find myself not wanting to do something, I think about something he said. I’ve been working on my conditioning. I got tired in my last fight. I want to make sure I can do my gameplan. If I want to take him down 100 times, I can take him down 100 times.”
On strategy – “I’m going to stay cool, despite how hot he makes me. I think my corner will do a real good job of keeping me focused and dialed in. I do want to go out there and start throwing punches to see where they land, but there is a strategy. One of the reasons why I have beaten guys that Jardine has faced is in training camp I studied the guy Jardine was going to fight. So when Jardine was fighting Quinton, I studied Quinton and I know his whole game.”