File Photo: Sherdog.com
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson learned a hard lesson in his unanimous decision loss to rival Rashad Evans at UFC 114: moonlighting can be hazardous to your day job.
Jackson, who was out-worked by Evans’ speed and stifling strategy for the majority of three rounds in their headlining bout in Las Vegas, admitted that ring rust and obligations tied to his starring role in the upcoming film “The A-Team” hurt his performance on Saturday in the Octagon.
“I kept trying to mentally block out all the people talking about ring rust because I knew it was going to be a factor, but I was just trying to block it out,” said Jackson. “Out there tonight, I felt it. I felt it bad. I’m really ashamed of myself that I fell victim to ring rust. Emotions had nothing to do with it.”
The former UFC light heavyweight champion’s decision to accept a pivotal role in the summer blockbuster, which releases nationwide on June 11, set the wheels in motion last fall. A December bout with Evans, who coached opposite Jackson on Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter 10,” was scrapped as Jackson reported that September to the film’s set in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Re-shoots further complicated the UFC’s efforts to re-schedule the bout after that, as relations between the fighter and promotion continued to erode. UFC President Dana White publicly chided Jackson for choosing Hollywood over his waiting fight career, though the two sides eventually reconciled and nailed down the new May date for the bout.
Subsequently, Jackson said he felt the most pressure he’s ever felt in his career heading into Saturday’s bout on the heels of a trying 15-month hiatus.
“I focused really hard and I trained really hard on this fight, but me having this damn movie and everything -- I kind of almost regret doing the damn movie now,” said Jackson. “There was so much pressure. (20th Century) Fox kind of threatened to sue me if I lost and everything because they didn’t know I was fighting.”
Sounding already taxed by the ordeal, Jackson said he’d leave Las Vegas on Saturday night to begin the film’s press tour. The 31-year-old father of two also said he had other movie offers on the table, though he wasn’t sure he’d take any of them.
“I’m a fighter, but I tried to go into a whole new adventure and didn’t even know anything about tours and stuff in a movie. I had no idea I had to do this,” said Jackson. “I was just focusing on this fight and I wasn’t even worrying about (the other movie offers). I got to make a decision because it looks like it would be hard to do both if you’re gonna take time off and fight guys accountable here in the UFC…I’ve just got to think about which one I want to do.”
As for Saturday’s defeat, Jackson said he “hesitated too much,” allowing Evans to implement an effective game-plan combination of speedy footwork, clinches and takedowns that negated Jackson’s ability to connect with his most formidable weapon -- his power punches.
“He is a good fighter. That’s why I respect him,” said Jackson. “He proved to have a good strategy, he’s real quick, he had good wrestling -- I was surprised he even took me down, but I still feel like I’m on another level.”
Jackson also criticized Evans’ choice of strategy.
“That was more of a wrestling match than a fight,” said Jackson, who vowed he’d be more aggressive in a rematch.
Jackson and Evans shared a mutual distaste for one another and both expended considerable energy trying to chip away at each other’s mental reserves in the months leading up to the bout. The banter between them served as a strong vehicle to promote the bout and it seems unlikely that the genuine disrespect felt between them has completely dissipated following Saturday’s results.
Still, Jackson found at least some common ground with the Greg Jackson-trained fighter, who now moves onto a title shot against UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
“He had a great game plan, and it worked well for him. I’m not a sore loser. That’s why I commended him,” said Jackson. “We all come for the same cloth. We all put our lives on the line and get in the Octagon and do battle.”
Jackson, who last thrilled fans with a brutal first-round knockout of former Pride Fighting Championships cohort Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92 in December 2008, said he wouldn’t be able to shake the defeat for some time.
“I’d like to get back in there as soon as possible,” said Jackson. “I didn’t like the way I felt, how much I hesitated. This fight’s going to haunt me for a long time. I’m just one of those guys, you know. It’s really going to haunt me.”