Quinton Jackson isn't looking past his opening-round opponent. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
For onetime UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson, a victory over Christian M’Pumbu this Friday at Bellator 110 will earn him not only a berth in the Season 10 tournament final, but also a potential clash with Muhammed Lawal.
“I knew I was never going to fight [Lawal] in any of the other organizations I was with, because I knew he wasn’t going to come,” Jackson recently told Sherdog.com. “I think I can be one hundred percent honest with you when I say that half the reason I signed with Bellator was because I was signing with Viacom -- not just an MMA organization, but a whole big company -- and that I could finally get a chance to beat the s--- out of ‘King Mo’ for all the stuff he said. But I forgive him.”
While a potential showdown with Lawal is no doubt a driving factor in Jackson’s ultimate pursuit of the Bellator light heavyweight strap, “Rampage” believes looking past someone like M’Pumbu -- the first man to ever hold Bellator gold at 205 pounds -- could prove to be a costly mistake. As such, Jackson will have no shortage of motivation when he steps into the Bellator cage on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
“I don’t really listen to what people say. It’s more dangerous for me when I think fighters are not on my level,” Jackson said. “If you go back and look at a lot of my losses, some of the times they have been people who I have thought were not on my level, and it was hard for me to get motivated to fight them. These last couple fights, I have tried to correct that, and I have found other motivations.”
With 44 pro fights under his belt, Jackson earned his spot as an elite light heavyweight over more than 14 years of competition. Along the way, the 35-year-old has learned to deal with the adversity that can plague those who pursue a career in the public eye.
“What I have learned about this world is that it’s very negative. A lot of people hate on MMA fighters or professional athletes for a lot of different things,” Jackson said. “Most people that watch fighting really wish they could get in the cage and do what we do, but they can’t. So what they do is they become die-hard fans and follow us online, wear MMA clothes and train muay Thai or jiu-jitsu. Then they get behind their computer screen and talk. They hate us because we do what they want to do. I try my best to be as positive as I can be. I don’t show my cards, because people try to get a rise out of you.”
Jackson cites his move to Bellator in 2013 as one of the better business decisions he has made in his career. According to Jackson, his opportunities will now come both inside and outside the cage.
“Boxing is the only art I haven’t done yet on the professional level. I would like to do a few boxing fights before I lay down my fighting gloves and go on to acting and the other stuff that I do full-time,” Jackson said. “I think if I do boxing that Bellator would be down with it. Bjorn [Rebney, Bellator CEO] has always supported me and the other stuff I want to do, and that’s why I love that guy. Pretty soon you guys are gonna see the reason why I signed with Bellator and Viacom.”
Prior to joining Bellator, Jackson spent nearly six years with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Now more than a year removed from his UFC departure, Jackson feels the sport’s largest promoter could be surpassed by Bellator in the coming years.
“From what I see, I think UFC is doing the same thing Pride did. Pride got a big head, got too big for their britches, got too cocky, started treating the fighters bad and made some bad decisions,” Jackson said. “I see Bellator taking over the market, because if you think about it, the stuff the UFC is doing is very disrespectful to fighters. They are doing the uniforms, which is illegal. Then they are starting these gyms all over, which is taking more money out of the fighter’s mouths. Think about it; what do fighters do after they retire? They start up gyms in their neighborhoods. But now they have this UFC Gym, and they taking more money out of the fighter’s pocket. They can’t be a jack of all trades, and UFC is doing too much.”