When the horn sounded in the final round of the final fight in Quinton Jackson's Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) career, the former light heavyweight champion was mounted and being pounded on by Glover Teixeira, one of the division's top up-and-coming fighters.
It was a fitting end to a career that could have -- and should have -- been so much more.
Jackson (32-11) went 7-5 inside the Octagon. He came in like a lion, winning his first three and capturing the 205-pound title from Chuck Liddell, but went out like a lamb, losing his last three, including a submission defeat to reigning division kingpin Jon Jones back in Sept. 2011.
And the future looks bleak.
While opportunities still exist outside of ZUFFA, Jackson turns 35 in just a few months. In addition, he spent the second half of his Teixeira fight sucking wind with his hands at his side. He had little to offer the Brazilian other than a few solid punches and routine combos.
Fittingly, he has little to offer UFC, as well.
Once one of the greatest 205-pound fighters in PRIDE, the part-time movie star hasn't evolved in the years since his former employer folded up shop. He still packs a powerful punch, but in the co-main event of UFC on FOX 6 earlier this evening (Jan. 26, 2013), which went down at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, he fought like an anachronism, a gladiator that would have wrecked shop in the vale tudo tournaments of yesteryear.
In short, the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) has passed him by.
Therefore, there would be little reason for UFC to retain him. In addition to his fight against Teixeira, Jackson's inability to stop the takedown was evident in losses to Rashad Evans and Ryan Bader. And let's be honest, folks, wrestling isn't going away anytime soon.
In fact, it's becoming more and more prevalent each year.
And for all the talk about Jackson's power, it should be noted that "Rampage" hasn't finished a fight in over four years, going to the judges' scorecards in wins over Matt Hamill, Lyoto Machida and Keith Jardine. So what's left? Nothing but the memory of a talented young fighter who used to do work.
In fairness, his decline as a fighter may be directly proportionate to his dissatisfaction with his boss.
We've all had jobs that made us miserable and getting up to go to the office everyday, well, it sucked. Who wants to work hard and do a good job when you hate what you do for a living? True, Jackson still loves fighting, but he doesn't want anything to do with UFC or the "cowards" who fight in it.
He wanted an out, and he got it.
The downside is, he wasn't able to go out on his terms. Losing to Teixeira dramatically reduced his stateside marketability. Bellator MMA, widely considered the world's number two cagefighting promotion, thanks to the death of Strikeforce, is now airing on Spike TV and taking one step forward.
Scooping up UFC leftovers could be seen as taking two steps back.
"Rampage" will always have a home in Japan, where he cut his teeth as a ferocious slammer (see an example here). But featured fights on intermittent cards overseas are not exactly monster paydays. The real money is here, inside the Octagon, against the world's best.
Unfortunately, Jackson hasn't given UFC any reason to prove he deserves it.