Rampage Jackson to Boxing? Bring Your Toolbox

I’m all for athletes plotting career moves beyond the field, so under most circumstances I couldn’t do anything but support 34 year-old Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s decision to make Saturday night’s showdown with Glover Teixiera the final fight of his Ultimate Fighting Championship career.

For all the UFC’s talk about the relative safety of their sport, professional mixed martial artists still take an unfathomable pounding. Spend a week training the way they do and I guarantee at the end you’ll feel as though you’ve tumbled down several tall staircases.

And that’s even before we get to sparring.

So if a fighter decides to move on before he absorbs too much punishment I’ll never fault him.

But when that fighter walks away from fighting to embark on more fighting, I have to question the soundness of the people informing his decisions.


In case you missed it, Jackson has been feuding with the UFC over everything from the sponsorship policy that bars him from wearing his Reebok gear into the Octagon to a pay scale he says keeps rank-and-file fighters broke.

Fed up with the UFC’s economic restrictions Jackson says he’s leaving the company after Saturday’s bout to try… wait for it…


“My next challenge if I go somewhere, I just want to be very exciting. Maybe I want to try some boxing, see if I can do some boxing, or do some kickboxing. My heart is in MMA, I like slamming people and stuff like that. I’ve done jiu-jitsu tournaments, wrestling tournaments, kickboxing fights, but I have never done boxing, and I think that’s probably my biggest challenge to see if I can go and be a pro boxer. Hell, Kimbo Slice he’s doing pretty good, why can’t I?” — Jackson to Yahoo Sports

This isn’t to revisit the insipid boxing-vs-mma debates that flare up on the internet periodically. Jackson’s success or lack of it in the ring won’t prove any more than James Toney’s Octagon loss to Randy Couture did in 2010. Ninety nine times out of 100 the pro defeats the novice, whether it’s a boxing crossing over to MMA or the mixed martial artist stepping into the ring.

Unless, of course, that fight is glaringly fixed.

Instead issue here is Jackson’s MMA-t0-boxing role model, Kimbo Slice, the internet streetfight sensation turned MMA flameout turned pro boxer currently toiling several levels below mediocre.

In assessing Kimbo’s jump from the cage to the ring, Jackson is using the broadest possible definition of “doing pretty good.”

Later this month Kimbo faces an Australian tomato can named Shane Tilyard on the undercard of a C-list “world title” bout between Anthony Mundine and Daniel Geale. And that bout came together only after 1) a proposed exhibition with Roy Jones Jr. fell apart and 2) promoters issued a casting call to anybody who thought they could knock Kimbo out. They solicited tapes and selected a lucky “winner,” chosen, I’m sure for his inability to inflict damage.

And the X wins on Kimbo’s record so far?

I won’t quite call them fixed, but if there’s a handyman near by I wouldn’t be surprised.

And this is what Rampage Jackson aspires to? The man who once pulled in six-figure sums headlining UFC cards hopes to graduate to fighting on dusty Indian reservations in Oklahoma.

You could make the argument that Jackson is well past his UFC prime, and you’d be right. It’s been nearly four years since he’s performed like the wrecking machine who twice flattened UFC legend Chuck Liddell. His style —  heavy on aggression, short on subtle skills — certainly isn’t built for the long haul.

But the fighter who always walked the line between character and caricature retains the ability to talk trash, even if these days he directs most of his venom at his employer. And if Chael Sonnen’s pending shot at Jon Jones’ 205-pound title tells us anything, it’s that even as the UFC sells us skill (see Saturday’s main event between flyweights Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson), it remains willing to sell us a spectacle.

Sonnen stays in the title fight picture in two weight classes not because he has a chance to beat Jones or Silva, but because he’s a polarizing figure who cuts the best promos this side of Ric Flair. The UFC recognizes the value in Sonnen’s ability to self promote and rewards him with paydays his performances may not merit.

Jackson could have played the role a while longer, and maybe even talked his way back into the Jones-Rashad Evans round robin and stalked into retirement with one last big payout.

Instead he’s leaving the Octagon hoping one day he’ll box well enough to booked in four and six-rounders in second-rate casinos.

A noble goal, I guess, if the politics of the UFC really are too much for him to stomach.

I just hope he saves some of that money to hire a handyman just in case a fight needs fixing.

Follow Morgan Campbell on Twitter

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