Ben Fowlkes
Tuesday December 23rd, 2008

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson didn't ask for a third fight with Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92; it was given to him. And after a troublesome summer and two previous TKO losses to Silva in PRIDE, this matchup may be the most difficult Rampage could possibly receive in his return the Octagon.

But that's business.

"Fighting is my job," he said. "That's how I look at it. I didn't ask for Wanderlei; I wanted a rematch with Forrest [Griffin]. But I don't get to pick my fights. I fight the ones they give me, and they're giving me Wanderlei."

This is not the same Rampage we're used to. This one is more serious, more reserved. Less of a jokester. The events of the past six months have played a large part in his transformation, especially his split with trainer Juanito Ibarra, who reportedly overcharged Jackson for training camps and lined his own pockets in the process.

"That was a small part of it," Jackson said. "That was just one little thing he did. I really don't want to talk about it."

The split with Ibarra may have been the catalyst for Jackson's episode with delirium, which -- after going several days without food or sleep, and subsisting only on energy drinks -- ended with the fighter leading police on a high-speed chase through the streets of Costa Mesa, Calif. Jackson and the UFC wrote it off as a temporary episode, and the promotion is firmly behind him now. Rampage has since found a new home in the U.K. with England's Wolfslair gym, where he's surrounded by guys he describes as "real professionals" who bring something to his training that was lacking.

While they've prepared him to step back in the cage against his old nemesis Silva, Jackson remains adamant that this fight isn't about facing down demons or getting revenge so much as positioning himself for the fight he really wants: a rematch with current light heavyweight champ Griffin.

His title loss to Griffin at UFC 86 still irks Jackson. Of the five back-and-forth rounds of the fight, Jackson controlled the early portion as he dropped Griffin with a right hand in the first. Griffin came on late in the fight behind a series of debilitating leg kicks that Jackson failed to check. The judges unanimously voted in favor of Griffin, and even two of the three judges gave the new champ the opening round. Jackson's early knockdown was cast aside.

"I still think I won that fight," Jackson said. "I was the champ, and I think I did enough in that fight to stay the champ. You're supposed to have to take the title away from the champion, and he didn't do that. Even though it goes down on my record as a loss, I feel like I won that fight. I don't see how anyone could give him that first round. I don't know how a guy can get dropped and win the round."

Now, Jackson has to put the loss behind him. He has to put his first two meetings with Silva behind him, too. He has to focus on the fight at hand, and he has to try to force a different outcome this time around.

"We're not in Pride anymore," Jackson said. "I'm not the same fighter I was back then, and [Silva's] not the same fighter he was. We're in the UFC now. None of that other stuff's going to matter when we get in there."

Despite his long history with Silva, Jackson swears it's strictly business on his end. Silva might not agree, but Jackson promises the Brazilian will see a new "Rampage" on Saturday night, as will the rest of the fight world.

"He's in for a surprise if he thinks this is going to be just like our other fights. A lot of people are going to be surprised."

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