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Rampage, Rashad get personal

There's pre-fight trash talk, and then there's the stuff Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans have been saying to one another. It's beyond personal, and sometimes beyond intelligible. It isn't a back-and-forth so much as a shouting match.

Picture one of those cable news "debates," only imagine that the host of the show has gone for coffee and left the two guests to argue to the death. Now you know what this week's UFC 114 conference call sounded like.

Listening to Evans and Jackson bicker with one another, I was reminded of an argument I saw on the subway once. It was one of those situations where it didn't matter how it started or who had the more stable rhetorical position. Each man only cared about being louder and meaner than the other.

Those guys ended up fighting it out on the Queensboro Plaza platform, so they already have one up on Jackson and Evans, whose battle was delayed by Jackson's Hollywood ambitions.

Now The A-Team reboot is in the can and Jackson is set to step back in the Octagon in Las Vegas next weekend for a main event bout that puts personal animosity on center stage. Sure, the winner of the fight also gets a title shot at new champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, but that angle is buried by the blistering feud between these two.

But even as they say every offensive and hurtful thing they can think of, there is some actual, pointed criticism embedded in there, at least on Evans' part.

"He does his little sambo thing," Evans said of Jackson on this week's media call. "He says, 'Oh, black-on-black crime,' and, 'Oh, you can't use big words. I'm stupid.' Come on, I've talked to the dude. He's pretty smart. He knows what's going on. He says it's comedy? Why perpetuate the stereotype [that] you're stupid? You're not stupid. Why perpetuate the stereotype that you can't think, you can't understand big words? You can't read. All that stupid stuff."

If you've been following Jackson's well-publicized feuds, this stuff isn't new to you.

Strikeforce champ "King" MoLawal has accused him of to playing to stereotypes while fighting in Japan's Pride organization, and Lawal still insists that Jackson's popularity among white MMA fans is attributable primarily to his decision to present an image of a black fighter that is more harmful stereotype than truth.

Jackson, not surprisingly, doesn't see it that way. He either insists he's never played that role, despite a library of video footage that shows just the opposite, or else he explains it away as simple entertainment.

Of course, when Evans brought it up, Jackson responded by accusing him of being homosexual. That old standby again.

This is when it begins to feel like we're watching an argument where one person is trying to make a legitimate point, and the other person is just trying to yell so loud that he can't hear it.

What should be more of a concern for Jackson is the time he's spent away from the sport. It's been more than a year since his last fight. His banged-up body probably benefited from the time off, and he's said to have shed the extra weight he packed on while eating from the craft service table and foregoing the gym for the movie set.

That's good, because while he might have the skill-for-skill advantage over Evans on paper, Jackson isn't so talented that he can skate by on ability alone. Not in this fight. Evans is, by all accounts, a workhorse in the gym. He may not have Jackson's punching power or his raw charisma, but he is the kind of guy who will expose you if you don't show up well prepared.

If you listen to Jackson, one minute all he can think about is getting his belt back, and the next he'd rather quit MMA for good and film movies full-time. That sounds an awful lot like a man for whom motivation might be an issue.

Thanks in part to all the talk that's served as preamble for this fight, motivation is at least one problem that Evans certainly won't have.

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