Thursday, May 26, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
A lot of things about Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s mixed martial arts career defy ordinary thought.
He became a star in the sport by putting on electrifying performances in PRIDE, despite maintaining a diet that consisted almost exclusively of fast food and not training as hard as he was capable of. Jackson has beaten some of the top names in the UFC in recent years but only after admitting to a lack of motivation.
He’ll say a fight doesn’t excite him, such as Saturday’s UFC 130 main event against Matt Hamill at MGM Grand Garden Arena, and still somehow exceeds in his ability to sell it. Wednesday afternoon’s press conference was a lesson in that area.
Jackson spent an hour taking away any mundane qualities a meeting with the media usually entails and addressed the aforementioned criticisms in a humorous manner.
On why he now works out harder than ever and improved his eating habits: “I haven’t seen my abs in a long time. I miss them. You look at yourself in the mirror and you’re disgusted with yourself when you’re a professional athlete, that’s bad. That’s embarrassing.”
On what drives him: “Some of my kids, I’m going to need lawyer fees for them. Y’all are laughing, but I know what I got to do.”
And on why he keeps fighting: “Money. If anyone complains, ‘he’s just doing it for the money’, they should get slapped. Money is what makes the world go around.”
UFC may have lost its original main event, a lightweight title fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, but any bout with Jackson is a suitable replacement. Jackson (31-8 MMA, 6-2 UFC) has headlined six of the previous eight UFC cards he’s fought on. His personality makes him a natural for the role.
And a victory over Hamill (10-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) would likely lead Jackson to a chance at reclaiming the light heavyweight belt he held until losing to Forrest Griffin in July 2008.
White said Wednesday either Jackson or Lyoto Machida — who recently defeated Randy Couture at UFC 129 but lost to Jackson at UFC 123 — would face Jon Jones for the light heavyweight belt before the end of the year.
“I think if Rampage wins, you have to be more interested in the Rampage fight because Rampage deserves it,” White said. “I think he’s at the top. Machida is coming off of a win over Couture, but I think he needs another fight.”
Jackson’s rival Rashad Evans was slated to get the first shot at Jones but lost the opportunity by accepting another fight when the champion came down with a hand injury.
Evans is expected to get the bout eventually, but time is a luxury Jackson doesn’t have. A fight with Jones would probably be the last chance Jackson has to win a championship in his career.
Jackson, who turns 33 in three weeks, has long pledged that he won’t fight past the age of 35.
“I don’t want to be that guy fighting because he has to,” Jackson said. “I look up to Mike Tyson big time, and I feel disrespected when a lot of fans don’t understand what I say about wanting to move on and do other things after fighting.”
White vowed he wouldn’t try to stop Jackson and was happy for all the other opportunities he had outside of the UFC.
Jackson has the option to go after a movie career at any time after starring in “The A-Team” in the last year. He has other plans for retirement, too.
“I’ve got a lot of things I want to do,” Jackson said. “I’ve got these finger painting things I love doing. I really love that stuff. I’m actually getting good at it now. I made a peacock the other day and it was very beautiful. When I retire, I’ll be making a lot of finger paints to put all over the house. I might sell some on eBay.”
Everyone in the room, including White, broke into laughter after Jackson’s statement. Although it was presumably a joke, the image of one of the world’s most feared fighters dabbling in finger paint fits perfectly with Jackson.
A lot doesn’t add up, but he could not care less and is in no rush to explain.
“Sometimes, I just want to tell people to shut the (expletive) up,” Jackson said.