Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Jackson will step inside the Octagon tonight (Jan. 26, 2013) at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., for the twelfth and final time.
His opponent in the UFC on Fox 6 main event, Glover Teixeira, is not the kind of big "name" fighter who -- at least on paper -- can send off "Rampage" with gusto like perhaps a rematch with Mauricio Rua (more on that here) or even Forrest Griffin might have been able to do in the "Windy City."
It's a dangerous mixed martial arts (MMA) match up the promotion wanted and Jackson accepted when many others in the 205-pound division expressed reluctance. One that doesn't have Jackson jumping out of his skin (he'd rather play video games) to promote.
"It's just another day at the office for me," Jackson told Inside MMA's Ron Kruck. "It's not the first organization that I left. I used to fight in Pride, which was one of the biggest shows in the world back when I left it. They weren't treating me the way I wanted to be treated so I left. I stand up for myself. I'm a fighter, I fight everything."
Jackson did indeed leave Japan, landing with the "upstart" World Fighting Alliance (WFA) in 2006. He competed once under the WFA flag, battling the always-tough and foul-smelling Matt Lindland to earn a controversial unanimous decision. It would be his first and only fight with the promotion because soon after White and Co. swooped in and purchased the WFA for the sole purpose of landing Jackson and roster mate, Lyoto Machida.
Eight months later, Jackson would make his celebrated Octagon debut, exacting brutal revenge on the first man to hand him a professional MMA loss, Marvin Eastman, at UFC 67 with an impressive second round knockout. It was the start of a memorable (and not so memorable), roller-coaster ride that comes to an unfortunate end.
"I'm going to have both [fond and bitter memories]," Jackson said. "Not every fighter can be like Anderson Silva and win every match. It's my job to entertain people and put on a good fight and that's what I do -- I put my life on the line for the fans. When I leave, in a couple of years, I'll probably forget that I fought in the UFC. That's how I am -- I don't really watch the fights. When I leave the UFC I'm just going to move onto the next chapter in my life and try to remain positive and happy...."
It's unclear where Jackson might land. He has expressed a desire to try his hand at professional boxing, but the MMA options are limited to Bellator and a one-off fight against "King" Muhammed Lawal and perhaps a few other mismatches under the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) flag.
Of course, there is always the MMA-professional wrestling experiment that Lawal, along with the cooperation of Bellator and TNA wrestling, have recently launched. Regardless of he next destination, Jackson wants to make it clear that he had no other choice but to to seek greener pastures.
"I apologize to the fans who are sad to see me leave the UFC, but it's not my fault," he said. "I think if they were in my same shoes, a lot of them would do the same thing, but they don't understand because all they do is see us get in that cage and fight. It's going to be the UFC's loss and not my loss because I can go to any organization on the planet and have a successful career."
That's the glass half-full mentality, which Jackson will likely need to rely on as he tests the free agent waters. Most pundits don't share his confidence and chances for similar UFC success upon his departure. He is a 34-year-old fighter with a ton of miles on his 6'1" frame who could possibly be riding a three-fight losing skid after Teixeira gets done with him this evening.
Win or lose, though, Jackson doesn't appear to care how it looks, as long as he can just free himself of the UFC tether.
"[I'm not going to feel anything when I leave the Octagon for the final time]," he said. "Just gimme' my paycheck ... I'm gone."