DENVER -- Quinton "Rampage" Jackson has given up.
Given up, that is, in trying to convince us that he's not what we think he is: old, slow, and ready to go.
His expression certainly screams "I'm done" as he sits on a table opposite UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at a pre-event press conference promoting their headlining fight at UFC 135. Does he have the tools to beat the champ? Is he surprised that he's the underdog? Does he feel disrespected?
Jackson says he likes being the underdog. It reminds him of when people counted him out against Chuck Liddell some three years ago to win the title. The lack of emotion in his voice is unmistakable.
All of that passion has been drained by the repetition of similar questions, each with the same transparent implication that he has little chance to win. He would be more lively if the sting in that judgement hadn't dulled over time, or had the immediate animosity not faded for his too-perfect opponent, whom he believes is way too cocky for his own good. He's tucked that away somewhere for later, when he needs it.
Jones doesn't get much of a reaction by interrupting him in mid-sentence as he fends off another instigating question.
"Hey, I'm talking right now," Jackson said. "Shut your young a-- up."
In reality, Rampage is done talking. He's ready to fight.
Last Tuesday, he wasn't quite there yet. During a media day at the cavernous MusclePharm training facility in which he's been living for the past two months, a reporter from the local paper asked him if he was the past and Jones was the future.
"I ain't the f---ing past, I'm the present, motherf---er," Jackson spat. "I'm right here right now, ready to fight. I've got over 40 fights. How am I the f---ing past? I ain't retired yet, am I? I'll pour this motherf---ing water on your ass."
The reporter offered that the two were of different fighting styles.
"Exactly," Jackson said as four teammates seated at the table bowed their heads. "I take care of business, motherf---er. We've got other people on this table other than me. We've got more people up here. They've got better things to do than just sit here and watch you ask me stupid motherf---ing questions!"
Later, Jackson apologized. This isn't the first time he's flown off the handle, after all.
"I get salty sometimes," Jackson told SI.com. "I keep it real. Dana (White) knows I keep it real."
He said he could relate to the king of keeping it real, that of former Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz, whose no-shows at two press conferences had cost him a title shot against UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre at UFC 137.
"I can agree with him sometimes," Jackson said of Diaz. "Think about it. I don't know where he lives. I don't know much about Nick, but flying to Toronto to do a press conference, man. I had to fly here to Denver to do a press conference in the middle of my pre-camp. Sometimes you don't want to do those things, but I do think it's a part of the job."
Promotion is tiresome, though, when at times he doesn't see the financial benefit of promotion.
"Sometimes, fighters think, 'What's the point?'" Jackson said. "So I can understand. I don't know if Nick Diaz is getting pay-per-view dollars or what, but sometimes if it doesn't pay off, then you're like, 'Why am I doing extra promotion?' I'm taking time away from training to promote this fight when I'm not the one making the majority of the money off of it.
"But at the end of day, what are you gonna say? '[Expletive] y'all, I'm going to PRIDE.' You can't pull that one no more."
For the next two years, Jackson is a UFC fighter. It's the best way he knows to secure his family's financial future. Sometimes, he likes it too. A knockout is a finality not afforded to cubicle dwellers.
So he'll be a pinata for our doubts. There's nothing he can say to convince us that he's going to beat the unbeatable Jones, anyway.
Jackson lights up when he talks about his other passions. He wants to produce a reality series featuring his MMA team, Wolfslair. He's made friends with Joe Carnahan, who directed him in The A-Team and wants to do other projects. He's thinking about a rap album, designing video games. This is the part of the interview he doesn't want to end.
Fighting, meh. Of course he's prepared for Jones. Why would he walk into his cage fighting job unprepared and risk a beating that could permanently rewire his brain?
Six years ago after a loss to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, he had a realization that he had to look beyond his chosen career. Near as he could see, there was no safety net for guys like him. He would continue to take beatings until he couldn't any more, and his earnings at the end of the day could very well dwarf his medical bills. The good news was that he could use fighting to leverage his visibility into other ventures that would avert that depressing end.
So he invested in other things. He took acting classes. He booked a huge movie role. This made fans think he wasn't interested in fighting. He just wanted to stay ahead of the curve. Still does.
"I think if people look at MMA and they use it as a vessel to go on and do other things, then you win," Jackson said. "Then you're doing good. A lot of people think small. A lot of fighters retire broke, and you don't hear anything about them.
"I just have a plan to keep entertaining people. A lot of fans don't understand when I talk about retirement. They don't understand I'm still out there trying to entertain people, but you can't fight forever. You see a lot of fighters, they're here today and gone tomorrow. What are they doing? They think short-term.
"Part of the promotion is you have to promote yourself. UFC does a great job and they bind up everybody, but at the end of the day, it's bad for the fighter if you can't go anywhere else. With me, I'm the type of person where I can go and do other things. I can go and design video games. I can go and make movies. I want to be like the next Dave Chapelle at times. I want to make skits. I've got so much funny stuff that I've got trapped up in my own head that I can bring to sketches."
Right now, though, he's stuck in one role. That's fine, good, in fact, that he'll get a chance Saturday night to prove the old man can still get down.
But can he skip the beauty pageant?