Since Quinton “Rampage” Jackson stopped Chuck Liddell 3:10 into the second round of a Pride Fighting Championship bout in Tokyo on Nov. 9, 2003, both fighters have had a great deal of success — albeit in different countries.
Jackson won that fight by TKO when Liddell’s corner threw in the towel after watching Jackson put their fighter on the mat and pound on him.
Later that evening, Jackson lost to Wanderlei Silva in the finals of the organization’s Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament.
Jackson has won seven of nine fights since that night, but fighting mostly in Japan, he has flown under the radar of many mixed martial arts fans.
Liddell, on the other hand, returned to the United States and intensified his training program. After the loss, he began his current seven-fight winning streak against some of the biggest names in mixed martial arts.
That just happened to coincide with the UFC’s popularity explosion in the United States. Liddell vaulted to iconic status among U.S. fight fans and became a multimedia superstar.
Their paths will again cross Saturday night, when Jackson fights for Liddell’s Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 71 at the MGM Grand Garden.
Jackson has seen the magazine covers bearing the face of the man he once defeated, and he’s seen Liddell’s guest appearances on the hit HBO series “Entourage” and MTV’s “Punk’d.” But Jackson is not jealous of the attention Liddell has received.
Jackson (26-6), a 28-year old father of four, is in the business for only one reason.
“I am not like other fighters,” Jackson said. “I don’t fight for fame. I just know that I have to get more fame to get more money, so I accepted that fate. But I just fight for money.”
Before fighting became all about the financial reward, Jackson entered the world of combat sports when he discovered a talent for wrestling.
He earned all-state honors his senior year at Raleigh Egypt High School in Memphis, Tenn.. But after getting kicked out of junior college, Jackson needed to find another competitive outlet.
“One of my friends showed me some of the success that former wrestlers were having in mixed martial arts, so I decided to do some fighting,” he said, “I figured, ‘What’s better, rolling around with men in tights, or kicking some ass and not going to jail for it?’ So I said, ‘Sign me up.’ “
Jackson built an outstanding record and made a name for himself with his exciting style and trademark chain around his neck. He bounced around some smaller organizations in the United States before signing with Pride and building his reputation in Japan.
His unexpected win over Liddell propelled him to the upper echelon of the 205-pound class worldwide.
Liddell claims to have hurt his opponent in the first fight, but if that was the case, Jackson wouldn’t admit it.
“I don’t remember getting hit real hard,” he said.
This will be just the second UFC appearance for Jackson. In his debut, he earned a second-round TKO over Las Vegan Marvin Eastman at UFC 67 on Feb. 3.
Jackson returned to the United States last year, after his contract with Pride ended. He signed with the World Fighting Alliance but had just one fight before the WFA was purchased by UFC.
“The purchase of the WFA was for one reason and one reason only: to get Quinton Jackson in the UFC.” UFC president Dana White said.