In the brief history of the UFC, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson will go down as the man who helped turn the page on the Chuck Liddell era, knocking the UFC's first mainstream poster boy out in spectacular fashion in May 2007. It also proved to be the high point of Jackson's run, a sometimes erratic and sometimes spectacular stretch of time that often left his fans, the media and company brass shaking their heads in confusion.
It will apparently end in a similar way. In the last few weeks, Jackson has repeatedly stated he is done with the UFC, and now the promotion has agreed to part ways.
According to a report on Tuesday's "UFC Tonight," Jackson will fulfill the last fight on his existing contract and then be sent off into free agency. His last bout will come against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at an undetermined future date.
For all of his complaints -- and they were numerous to the point of being overwhelming -- Jackson produced some of the UFC's most memorable moments in a career that barring a change of heart, will be capped at 12 fights. Aside from his title fight win over Liddell, he also became the only man to unify the championship belts of the world's two most prestigious MMA organizations -- UFC and PRIDE -- when he beat Dan Henderson in September 2007. Also significant was his December 2008 knockout of Wanderlei Silva.
But despite all of his talents, Jackson (32-10) was a mercurial star away from the cage. That was best exemplified by his July 15, 2008 arrest in Costa Mesa, California following a hit-and-run accident and a police chase. The incident came just days after Jackson had lost the title to Forrest Griffin in a significant upset. Jackson later explained the situation by saying that he had been upset with the loss and had been up for days, subsisting only on energy drinks.
He also once quit the UFC in protest of their alleged mistreatment of him, stemming from his decision to step away from a long-planned match with Rashad Evans in order to film a starring role in "The A-Team." That rift was later patched up, and Jackson has fought five times since then.
This time, though, he says there is no turning back from his decision, which he announced via Twitter. Acknowledging that he was likely to make less money fighting elsewhere, Jackson said his anger towards the UFC was not about finances but respect. Though he didn't detail any specific instances of their mistreatment of him, in a recent interview with "Inside MMA," he noted that he has been upset with the way he's been booked, saying UFC matchmaker Joe Silva "needs to be slapped" for pairing Jackson with wrestling stylists, for which he has a disdain.
On the other hand, many would point out that he has received star treatment as evidenced by the fact that eight of his 11 fights have been featured as UFC main events. In addition, his final three fights will have consisted of a title match, a bout which he specifically requested in Japan, and a long-anticipated rematch with Rua.
At 33 years old, Jackson still may have some good years left, but a loss to Rua in his octagon swan song will send him out to the free agent market having lost three consecutive fights. Aside from that, there aren't many options for high-paid veterans with a track record of volatility and occasional insubordination. He has also expressed an interest in doing more acting, something that would no doubt be a more lucrative option.
The strange part is that at his best, Jackson is an engaging and witty personality capable of stealing the show with either his words or his fighting skills. In the leadup to his fight with Liddell, he was told Liddell predicted a first-round knockout and asked for his response. Jackson said, "If he plans on getting knocked out in the first round, that's his business." It was the natural showman in him after all that opened the door to Hollywood.
That side of him still comes out, but it's been absent the last few days as he's ramped up his campaign to escape. It appears that he got his wish, and now he'll have to face the uncertainty of what awaits him on the other side of Shogun and the UFC.