Get in the Cage!

After this weekend, Irvine’s Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson just might make mixed martial arts everyone’s favorite spectator sport

"The UFC knew that our due date was right during the fight," he says. "They said, 'Deal with it,' basically, or they'd find somebody else for the job."

Scars creep through his tightly buzzed brown hair. His cauliflower ears look as though they've been batter-dipped and deep-fried. The brown-eyed Henderson has a calm, almost shy demeanor and smiles when he talks. He's thinner and more wiry than Jackson; he says he'll probably be outweighed by 20 pounds come fight time.

"I've fought lots of heavyweights," Henderson says. "Probably three-quarters of my fights, I've given up at least 15 pounds. I think I'm a tough fight for anybody at any weight. It's just my style. A lot of that is mental; a lot of that is technical. A small portion of that is actual size and strength.

Rampage works out in Big Bear with his manager and trainer, Juanito Ibarra. Photo by John Gilhooley.
Rampage works out in Big Bear with his manager and trainer, Juanito Ibarra. Photo by John Gilhooley.

"It's just a matter of being mentally there, right there in that moment, and being up for that fight," he says.

If Henderson wins, he could be the first fighter not only to hold belts in separate weight divisions, but also to unify a Pride Fighting and UFC championship.

"This fight is a big goal for me. After that, I just need to defend it and stay on top . . . just until I retire. I still have goals to reach and small goals along the way, but the ultimate goal would be for me to retire after defending the belt—being the top, undisputed guy in the world."

When asked if he will be intimidated by Jackson's howling, chain-wearing and vicious stare-downs, Henderson laughs. "I don't pay attention to that. A lot of fighters have their own little thing. He's not the first one to have his own little thing. I just go out there and fight."

When the van arrives at a rented Big Bear Lake house, the fighters jump out, and Jackson politely asks if the interview can continue on the outside porch. He pulls two from a stack of green plastic outdoor chairs and sits back in one, still looking tired. Just outside the front door, a child-sized four-wheeler is parked.

Jackson says his four kids visit him often while he's training. It helps him maintain his sanity and remember why he's working so hard. But traveling around the world to fight takes its toll on family life. Jackson refuses to talk about his divorce.

"It sucks. Being away from my kids sucks. The kids don't understand why you're not there—all they know is you're not there," he says. "I don't know if it's the best life for them, but they'll probably get a good education. And it's probably safer for them living in Orange County than where I grew up."

If Jackson stays in Orange County, he'd like to open a barbershop. There aren't a lot of places where a black guy can get a reliable haircut here, he says. "Stay away from Supercuts!" he warns from experience.

Yawning, Jackson asks to be excused. He wants to get a nap in before the next round of training begins, and the flight to London leaves later that night. He finds a couch next to where another fighter slumbers; 15 people live in this house.

Joey Davis, whose 13-year-old son, "li'l Joey," trains with Jackson, wants to change the channel on the TV. Back to the Future III is playing. Davis wants to watch ESPN. Jackson grumbles, "No."

Davis sits back down.

The Jackson-Henderson fight airs on Spike TV. Sat., 9 p.m.

For an audio slideshow about Rampage Jackson, click here.

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