Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has never been shy about expressing his disdain for Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida’s fighting style.
The former UFC light-heavyweight champ, who starred in the universally panned A-Team movie released earlier this year, has repeatedly called Machida’s karate-based style boring, saying the 32-year-old Brazilian’s fights are a sure-fire cure for insomnia.
And Jackson isn’t going to pull any punches just because Machida will be locked in a cage with him on Saturday.
“Why would it change because I’m matched up with him?” Jackson asked rhetorically. “Why would it change how I like his fighting style just cuz I’m matched up with him?”
Fans will get a chance to find out if Machida’s style is as sleep-inducing as Jackson thinks when the two ex-title holders meet in the co-main event of UFC 123 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit.
Welterweights Matt Hughes and BJ Penn will square off in the third instalment of their trilogy - they’ve split the first two fights - in the other main event.
Jackson’s contempt for Machida’s style is a result of his own approach in the octagon. The 32-year-old Tennessee-born fighter is a powerful striker who has won nearly half of his 30 mixed-martial-arts fights by knockout.
“I’d rather fight people who are going to put on a show like me, stand and bang,” he said. “Those people are the true warriors, the true fighters. The way BJ Penn and Matt (Hughes) fight, I like watching guys like that fight.
"The other guys, you know, I’m not a fan of them at all. I feel I have to fight with true warrior spirit."
Fighting the way Machida does in the octagon isn’t what mixed-martial arts is about, Jackson insists, but instead resembles what goes down in its square-ringed cousin. And, as far as he’s concerned, that’s boring.
“It’s not like boxing where the guys are trying to out-point each other and go for the decision,” he said. “We’re MMA fighters, you understand. The best athletes in the world. I just hate to see our sport change into boxing where people are not even fighting anymore. I can’t watch a boxing match anymore.”
None of Jackson’s pre-fight trash talk seems to bother Portuguese-speaking Machida, who is coming off a knockout loss to Mauricio Rua in May that ended his undefeated streak at 16 and cost him the UFC light-heavyweight title he took from Rashad Evans a year earlier.
“Basically everyone has their own opinion,” Machida said, responding through an interpreter to Jackson’s criticism. “That’s someone’s opinion. I think this is a great matchup of style because Rampage is known to be aggressive, he likes to stand up.”
Despite the obvious contrast in styles, both fighters will be looking for the same thing on Saturday - redemption.
Both are coming off losses - Jackson was on the wrong end of a unanimous decision to Evans in late May - and are trying to re-establish themselves as contenders for the light-heavyweight belt. The winner could get a shot at Rua, but UFC president Dana White hasn’t promised anything yet.
After training for his fight with Evans in the United Kingdom, Jackson brought his camp back to the U.S. to get ready for Machida, who in turn spent some time at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose to tweak his wrestling skills. If the additional training by Machida has Jackson concerned, he’s not saying.
“Actually, I’m not worried about anything,” he said. “The fight is gonna go the way the fight is gonna go. I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going to fight my fight, not worry about anything.”
Penn, meanwhile, moved back up to welterweight (170 pounds) to take the fight with Hughes, who beat him by TKO in their second meeting four years ago. The last time the Hawaiian fought at that weight, he lost to Georges St. Pierre.
But if he stays at welterweight or drops back down to lightweight (155 pounds) - he lost his past two fights, both to Frankie Edgar, at that weight - will in part depend on how he fares against Hughes.
“If I do well against Matt and feel good at welterweight, I’d love to fight the best welterweights out there,” Penn said. “Matt has been looking great out there lately. We’ll see what Dana says. I know I’ve always had a goal to be welterweight champion again and I wouldn’t mind being the lightweight champion again. I’m just trying to take it one step at a time.”
Hughes, a 37-year-old UFC Hall of Famer who should be entering the twilight of his career but instead appears rejuvenated, is coming off three wins in a row after losing to Thiago Alves at UFC 85 in London. Another win over the 31-year-old Penn might put him in line for another chance at St. Pierre’s title.
“BJ has fought nothing but the best,” Hughes said. “I mean, look at his last fight with GSP. He has always done well no matter what weight class he’s at. So, yeah, this is a great fight for me.
“It’s a great fight for BJ, too. I am not Frankie Edgar, I don’t move around like Frankie Edgar. So I’m sure BJ is really liking this fight style-wise because I’m a lot different than his last opponent.”