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Rampage: 'I am the outsider'

Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Chuck Liddell defends his Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight championship against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published May 25, 2007


Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Chuck Liddell defends his Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight championship against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. You know all about Liddell: ESPN The Magazine coverboy, guest starring role on HBO's Entourage, the signature lo-hawk. He is, without question, the face of the UFC and one of the key forces behind its recent popularity as the Mixed Martial Arts bandwagon fills up. But what about Rampage? Here's a quick lesson: former high school wrestler turned MMA star, 26-6 for his career, star in Japan, and get this - whipped Liddell the last time they fought. Times fighting dude John C. Cotey caught up with Rampage recently:

Chuck Liddell is everywhere. Everywhere. You? Not so much. That bother you?

That's normal, because nobody knows who the hell I am. The UFC hasn't even promoted me to the right extent yet. I've had one fight. And Chuck's the champion and one of the most popular guys in MMA right now. I don't even worry about that stuff. I don't fight for media attention. I fight for paychecks.

But to get paychecks, you need to be famous.

It's not about none of that. I don't need to make no mark. I don't need nothing. I need paychecks.

You're fighting for the money then?

Now you got the picture.

You are well known in MMA circles for your exploits in Japan's PRIDE Fighting Championships. But now in the UFC, you ready to really take off?

I know this sport is gonna be the biggest thing. (Starts singing.) We taking over, we taking ovvvvvvah. (Stops singing.) This is my destiny. Whatever happens in this fight is part of my destiny, and I want to do my best to make it a good one.

It could be life-changing, beating the man. That would make you top dog awfully quick.

The way I feel is this: What's happening is gonna happen and you can't stop it from happening because it's going to happen anyway and if you try to stop something from happening you ain't happening yourself.

(Silence)

Uh.

Well, you beat Liddell in Japan, and beat him bad. It's all over YouTube. It was a pretty dominating effort. You been thinking about doing this again for a while?

When Chuck became champion, it crossed my mind. I was like, damn, I can whoop Chuck again. I could possibly be champion, you know what I'm saying? Because I ain't ever been champion of no big show. But I figured, let him go have his milk and cookies. He's been waiting for his milk and cookies for a while, so he can have his milk and cookies and I'm going to go eat some ice cream.

What are some of the differences from then, in 2003 when you clobbered him, and now?

I think Chuck is a little more confident than he was the first time we faced each other because he been putting a hurting on folks. Probably worked on his footwork little more. But it don't matter. I'm mentally strong. I'm determined. I'm younger than him and I've worked on a lot of stuff since then.

I think people would be surprised to watch how badly you beat him.

A lot of people are surprised by that when they find out. They shocked, but they don't know. They just know what they see right now.

Liddell is a cash cow. Him losing can't be good for business. You think you're the UFC's worst nightmare?

Hell, yeah. I am the outsider. I'm the redheaded stepchild, you feel me? Let's all be real, they put me up against the champion because they feel I'm not ready or I'm unprepared. They want the champ to whoop my a- -. They don't want no outsider to whoop up on their champion. They don't want that.

You are a born-again Christian. And your job is to beat people up. That's an unusual dichotomy in many ways, isn't it?

If people knew anything about Christianity, they know being a Christian is nothing but a fight. You have to fight every day. It's all about war. If you really know Christianity, you have to be a fighter to be a Christian. It's a battle every day with temptation and fighting this and fighting that. Christian people know what I'm talking about. If you don't understand, I don't care. No sweat off my back.