For Jardine, it's friends first, business second
On one hand,
For instance, there are circumstances regarding Saturday's bout between Jardine and
The obvious storyline heading into the pay-per-view card centers on Jardine's refusal to fight
"He competes with the end in mind and knows one day fighting is going to be over and all the cheers are going to stop," Evans said of Jardine, whom he befriended in 2005 during the second season of Spike TV's
Close relationships forged through fighting would be the best way to describe Jardine's time spent at
"Everything I admire about him he still is," said Jackson, who called Jardine the mentally toughest fighter to cross his path.
"You would have to really dig to find something [negative about Jardine], maybe talk to a girlfriend 20 years back," the trainer continued. "That guy is like
To hear Evans, Madrid and Jackson, Jardine is a man of few faults and many interests. Art-house films send the 6-foot-2, 205-pound bald-headed light heavyweight's mind in motion, as do the books he regularly carries with him. Old ghost towns and mining communities are utterly compelling to the man from Butte, Montana, and another point of interest he shares with his trainer.
"He's so unassuming, but he's always looking at something intellectual or trying to better himself," Evans said.
Perhaps it would have been easy by looking at him to presume what makes Jardine tick. But Jackson didn't when the stout fighter first walked through his doors.
"It might take you a minute to get there," Jackson said, "but once you're his friend, you're his friend."
Cornering Jardine over the course of his career, Jackson has come to appreciate the Dean of Mean's tenacity and grit. To this day, he remains in awe of Jardine after watching him cut 15 pounds, rehydrate and will his way to a victory in Japan, all within an hour's time. And for as much as he's tried, Jackson has yet to see or make Jardine break, be it in the gym or the 11,000-foot "hill" they traverse in summer's heat or waist-deep snow.
All of it adds up to Jardine being one of the roughest customers in his division, something Evans knows well having sparred hundreds of rounds with him over the years.
"When (UFC matchmaker)
Against Rampage (29-7), Jardine faces his third opponent with credentials as UFC light heavyweight champion (
In fact, said Madrid, bouts like these give Jardine a sense of purpose to his MMA career, particularly with his close friend sitting atop the division. When Jardine goes through his routine Saturday night, transforming from the man loved as a friend to the one respected for his tenacity and integrity, it's like seeing the light heavyweight portal to an alternate dimension, Evans said.
His eyes bug out. He's aggravated. He yells.
"That nickname suits him better than his real name," Evans said. "But for some reason, as mean as he looks, my 2-year-old loves him."
Kids know best of course, though Jardine is not without his shortcomings as a fighter.
In his second-to-last bout, against
Bad for business, good for friendship. That is a trade Keith Jardine has already made.