UFC ready for Rampage

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, MANAGING EDITOR

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

He has no belt and has yet to set foot in the UFC Octagon.

Still, Quinton (Rampage) Jackson commands the respect and adoration normally reserved for champions.

Jackson, for all his lack of North American exposure, has one distinction no other fighter on Earth can lay claim to: An unavenged victory over UFC light-heavyweight champ Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell.

"Everyone keeps talking about that so I guess it's pretty special," says Jackson, who with gold tooth caps and a rumble chain around his neck, looks more like a member of 50 Cent's entourage than a martial artist.

The former Pride star is on a collision course with the Iceman. It's the main reason he was brought in by UFC president Dana White. And when the showdown takes place, Jackson is certain he will once again have his hand raised -- this time, with a championship belt.

"Chuck's another day at the office for me," says the Memphis native, who at 28 has amassed a 25-6 mixed-martial arts record and a legion of fiercely devoted fans.

"I train my butt off and I'll take it to him like I took it to him the first time."

In Pride: Final Conflict 2003, Jackson scored a second-round TKO due to strikes victory over Liddell. Liddell has avenged the two other blemishes on his 20-3 record but the loss to Jackson has gnawed at him for the past 31/2 years.

But before Jackson gets his shot at Liddell, he must avenge a loss of his own.

He'll make his UFC debut Feb. 3 against Marvin (Beastman) Eastman, who beat Jackson when the two last fought in July of 2000.

"Back then I didn't know anything. I remember getting my butt kicked," says Jackson, who has been training in Big Bear with Tito Ortiz

"It was my first professional fight. Now ... I'm more focused and I've had more than 30 fights.

"Hopefully Marvin Eastman comes ready to battle."

FIGHT NOTES:

- Alberta prison guard Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald will take on former middleweight champ Rich (Ace) Franklin at UFC 68: The Uprising March 3.

- Randy (The Natural) Couture announced this week he is coming out of retirement. The 43-year-old -- who hung up the gloves after his second straight loss to Liddell last February -- will move back to the heavyweight class and take on champ Tim Sylvia March 3. Couture signed a four-fight deal.


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