In path of Rampage

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

As far as Keith "Dean of Mean" Jardine is concerned, he's being served up as a ladder rung in Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's climb back to the top.

"I'm probably like the third person asked to the prom on this one, I think," says the 33-year-old. "They're just throwing me out there and they expect me to put on a good show, but they don't expect me to win."

Jardine says even if he is victorious in the main event at UFC 96 tonight, he has no interest in fighting for the belt -- at least not while it's around the waist of best friend and training partner, "Sugar" Rashad Evans.

"Me and Rashad, we've always talked about that and there's no way that we're going to fight afterwards," says the New Mexico native, who has a 14-4-1 record.

"That's why people love this sport is because we're not businessmen. We're not like NFL players. They're trying to stay healthy and get a paycheque. We fight with all of our heart and our soul. And how are you going to go out there and give the audience what they deserve when you're fighting one of your best friends? That is just not going to happen."

The ties between the Greg Jackson-trained fighters run deep.

"The thing with us that's different, is we got together right when we got off the reality show (The Ultimate Fighter 2)," says Jardine.

"We both had weaknesses in our game. I wasn't a very good wrestler and he wasn't that good at striking. And we kind of got together, and we kind of shared everything of ourselves and became best friends doing that.

WENT TO HIS WEDDING

"We're not just acquaintances, guys that train together, guys that kind of know each other. I know his family. I went to his wedding and things like that. When I fight, I fight with all of my heart and all of my soul, and how do you go into a situation like that and bring all of that with you? I just don't see that happening."

His opponent tonight, on the other hand, is more interested in the quickest elevator to the penthouse.

Jackson, coming off a knockout victory over Wanderlei Silva, wants a title shot as soon as possible. Should he prove the pundits correct and beat Jardine, his next test before he gets a shot at Evans may come from undefeated Brazilian Lyoto Machida.

"He's like a weird fighter, you know what I'm saying," says Jackson, the former UFC 205-lb. champ.

"I couldn't study his tapes. He's boring as hell.

"I guess his style works for him the way he runs and has people come on to him. I think he's good. He's undefeated. But he's boring. If I was a promoter of a show, I wouldn't have guys like that fighting for me, to be honest."


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