Keith Jardine: Mousasi Fight Is Next Step Toward 'Reinventing Myself'

SAN DIEGO -- When Keith Jardine heard that Gegard Mousasi had only watched one round of his fight with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 96 to prepare for their bout on Saturday night, a sly smile spread across "The Dean of Mean's" face.

"I love that fight," Jardine said in his soft, low voice. "It's one of my favorite fights, but I definitely didn't do well in that one."

When he thinks back on it now, he was too flat-footed in that bout, and he got exhausted early on. In fact, maybe it's good that Mousasi chose that fight to watch a single round from.

"It might have made him a little more confident," Jardine said.

But even though he lost a decision in that bout, it's what people don't know about it that helped make the performance one of Jardine's personal favorites.

"I got incredibly tired in that fight. I haven't told too many people about this, but I broke my nose right before that fight and couldn't breathe. I just kind of downplayed that in my mind, but come the second round I was just kind of gassing out, and 'Rampage' is a big, strong guy. ...It was a fun fight. It was back and forth. The crowd loved that fight, it was Fight of the Night, and any Fight of the Night, that's what I'm here for is just to get into a real scrap."

And yet, as far as Mousasi has seen for himself, that Jardine is the one and only version.

Not that he's not aware of the man's other accomplishments, Mousasi pointed out. Jardine has wins over guys like Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin, and even at 35 years old he's still a dangerous opponent, even if Mousasi hasn't seen any tape on him that is less than two years old.

It might sound reckless at first, but Mousasi prefers to let his coaches do the video analysis. Normally, he said, he doesn't watch any film. He actually made an exception when he heard Jardine would be stepping in for the injured Mike Kyle on short notice.

"With him, I didn't know exactly how he was fighting, so I decided to watch one round to see his style," said Mousasi. "I don't like to watch my opponents. I feel I get too much respect for them. It's good, but I prefer not to watch them because sometimes I will give them a little too much credit. You know, they're good. But I feel like I'm better."

For Mousasi, there's much less to gain now that Kyle is out, and he knows it. Jardine has won just three of his last eight fights, and was dropped from the UFC after four straight losses.

But when Kyle went down with a hand injury, Jardine stood out as a recognizable light heavyweight who, by his own admission, has "a hard time turning down fights." He got the call last Thursday while at his nephew's t-ball game, he said, and he knew right away he was going to take it.

"Honestly, I just fought a month ago. I'm coming off a vacation a week ago. If it was another organization or someone else I'm sure I would have turned it down, but a big name like Mousasi and in Strikeforce, there's no way I could turn it down. It'd be almost like backing away from a street fight. If it was somebody I'd never heard of, it might have been easier."

For his part, Jardine said he watched "parts of three films" on Mousasi, but he's not convinced it's going to matter all that much. When you take a fight on nine days' notice, it's not as if you can develop too complex of a game plan. You also can't exactly put yourself through much of a conditioning regimen. You just have to hope you're in good enough shape already, or at least reasonably close to it.

"I'm not worried about getting tired in this fight," said Jardine. "If you worry about it – if I try to cruise around and fight a slow fight and not get tired – I'm just going to get tired anyway. I might as well go out there and do it."

And for those thinking that this is just a chance for a one-off paycheck and a couple more minutes of TV time before heading back to the small shows, you should know that Jardine has other ideas. He'd already begun the first stages of a cut to middleweight when he got the call to fight Mousasi, he said, and he was planning on having his next fight in the UFC's 185-pound division. In his mind, this is just the first step in that direction, and a great chance to show the UFC that he's still got it.

"I'm excited. It's all part of the next phase of my career, me reinventing myself. I'm going to have a major title before I retire and this is all part of it."

The late notice? Showing up at Strikeforce with the deck stacked against him? That's nothing to a guy whose favorite fight is one he came into sporting a broken nose.

And if you're still wondering how that happened, blame David Louiseau, Jardine said. He was the one who managed to pull off the accidental spinning elbow in a wrestling session that smashed Jardine's nose just a couple weeks before the main event fight.

But it wasn't that big of a deal in the end, Jardine explained. Not when you've already got a mug like his.

"I break my nose all the time," he said. "Look at me."

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