Jackson relishing return to Japan for UFC bout with Bader


Staff Writer

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson could only smile as a translator struggled to convert something he’d said into Japanese. He tried to explain it twice before giving up, shaking his head and laughing.

“Man, I got to get fluent in Japanese so I can translate my jokes,” he said.

That was about the only problem Jackson ran into as he held court at the Ritz Carlton Tokyo on Monday to help announce his return to Japan at next year’s UFC 144 in Saitama, where he’ll face rising star Ryan Bader.

“Even if I lose, I’m going to Roppongi,” he joked. “Either it’s going to be a celebration or a pity party.”

That’s Jackson, cracking jokes and owning the room the way he often owns the octagon, though he goes about the latter with an understandably more violent temperament.

Still, Rampage is one of a kind, with arguably the most colorful personality in the sport. He used to don a 3.5-kg chain on his way to fights and howled to the moon after wins. When not fighting, he’s rarely at a loss for words and has turned a few interview sessions into must-see TV.

At the Ritz Carlton, he countered the immaculately attired Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama and Frankie Edgar with a purple T-shirt, jeans and a shiny silver necklace topped off by an equally gaudy pendant in the shape of a hand grenade.

He was firmly in his element and gave off an easy, relaxed air, appearing without a smile for only the few seconds it took to twist his face into a scowl to pose for the cameras with Bader.

Jackson seemed genuinely happy to be in Japan again. It was, after all, in Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships where he first rose to prominence in mixed martial arts. When he learned UFC was planning a show in Japan, he went on a veritable rampage to get in on the action.

“I had to fight to be on this card,” Jackson said. “I had to fight and complain and (expletive) to my manager.”

Possessing brute force to match a background in both wrestling and boxing, Jackson’s fights in Japan were exciting body-slam filled events. Though he says his style has changed a bit since then.

“My standup has evolved a lot since I last fought here,” Jackson said. “At the same time, that’s been getting me in trouble a lot lately. Everybody’s been seeing me boxing a lot more, so they’re creating great game plans to counter my boxing.

“Back in Japan, I used to slam a lot and try to put on a great show, because the energy from the fans gave me power. I don’t feel the same energy in the U.S. So I can’t honestly say I’ve changed or evolved in a good way.”

He didn’t, however, rule out breaking out a few old-school tricks when he squares off against Bader on Feb. 26, six years to the day of his last appearance in Japan, a win over Yoon Dong Sik at Pride 31.

“I remember back when I was fighting here, I just had so much energy and I just wanted to put on a good show for the fans because of all the energy that they give,” Jackson said. “In America, you’re under so much pressure to win and the fans talk (expletive) to you if you lose, even if it was a good exciting fight.

“In Japan it’s a different energy. So who knows, I may take more chances and not care because it’s all about the crowd.”

Jackson (32-9) enters the fight coming off a loss to Jon Jones in an unsuccessful attempt to win Jones’ UFC Light Heavyweight title at UFC 135 on Sept. 24. He could have his hands full again against Bader (13-2), who knocked out Jason Brilz his last time out.

“It’s going to be an exciting fight against Rampage,” Bader said.

The event will be shown live on pay-per-view in the U.S. with a currently scheduled start time of 10 p.m., on the East Coast, on Feb. 25. Which means an early Sunday morning start for Jackson.

“I grew up fighting on the streets, where you didn’t know when you were fighting,” Jackson said. “The worst thing about fighting, is the anticipation of the fight.

“But that’s going to be a fight within itself,” he added, discussing the early start. “I’m looking forward to the challenge, to see how I do fighting early in the morning. I think I should be a fighter 24 hours a day. Except for when I’m sleeping . . . or taking a bath. You don’t want to fight naked, trust me. Not that I’ve done it, seems like it’d be kind of weird.”