DENVER -- The fight game is full of almost mythical hard luck stories of young fighters who, being long on passion and short on cash, end up sleeping on dirty mats or bedding down on a cot in some back room of the gym where they train. This is not one of those stories.Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
isn't young (not by fighter standards, anyway) and he certainly isn't poor. He didn't make his home inside the MusclePharm gym just off I-70 in Denver because he had to; he did it because he wanted to. And, sure, there were other contributing factors.
"I'm kind of lazy," Jackson said. "I didn't want to have to wake up in the morning...and I'd be late here every day. So I just said forget it. Move me in."
According to MusclePharm co-founder and senior president Cory Gregory, it wasn't the kind of request they'd envisioned when they first built the more than 30,000-square-foot facility that resembles an airplane hanger more than a 24-Hour Fitness, but they found a way to make it work.
"Rampage lives right in there," Gregory said, gesturing through a door off the main weight room. "It was originally a physical therapy room. He spent one night in a hotel then came in and said, 'Hey, make me a room.' So we made him a room and that's where he sleeps."
Jackson has been living in the facility for about the past two months, by his own reckoning. He came to Denver to live and train in the altitude and the atmosphere where he'd be fighting light heavyweight champion Jon Jones
at UFC 135
, but the hotels which had kitchens that could accommodate him were all too far from the gym, he said.
"But then, I saw the gym has everything," he said. "I might as well live here."
Not only does the gym have a kitchen, it also has a hyperbaric chamber, hot and cold recovery tubs, hydraulic weight training machines, aquatic treadmills, a full lab for measuring hormone levels -- even its own movie theater where all the seats are individually embroidered with the MusclePharm logo.
"We use [the theater] for presentations and stuff," Gregory said. "But also Rampage uses it to play video games and watch movies."
But all that isn't cheap. According to the UFC
, between Jackson, his Wolfslair squad, and MusclePharm, more than one million dollars went into this one fight camp. How they arrived at that figure is vague at best, but a good portion of it seems to come from the luxury of the MusclePharm gym, which isn't open to the public and, according to Gregory, never will be.
"We've been building it for a year, a year and change, and not really telling anybody about it," he said, explaining that it was just for the athletes the company sponsors, such as Jackson and NFL players like Shawne Merriman, who Gregory says has been here several times.
But with all this expensive equipment laying around exclusively for the use of pro athletes, it's hard not to wonder how the company isn't losing money just by keeping the lights on.
"We're a brand that sells supplements worldwide," Gregory said. "...This was all in our marketing budget, because we knew that just like the thing they played on Spike [TV], the Countdown show, there's like five minutes all about the facility. Basically, if you build it, they will come."
Except that, as I was forced to point out, they don't actually want people to come. People can't come. Not past the parking lot, anyway.
"We didn't need to make money off the gym," Gregory said. "We're making money because you're standing here talking to me."
Besides, he added, if he's pursuing a sponsorship deal with a pro athlete like Jackson, who has other suitors in the industry, "why wouldn't they pick MusclePharm when they have the access to this? No one else has this. I think we rival even some Olympic facilities. It's pretty ridiculous."
Ridiculous is an appropriate word for it, in some respects. For a guy who's preparing to fight another man in a cage on Saturday night, it almost seems like overkill. There's far more mat space here than any one fighter could possibly need -- far more space in general. There's a cage, a ring, an astroturf runway. The walls are adorned with inspirational (if not completely grammatically sound) phrases such as "Weak Ends Here."
It is, in other words, a very different training model than the one that most MMA fighters follow. Rather than working with an existing team that makes its home in an existing fight gym, Jackson is his own moveable team. He has his own dedicated coaches and sparring partners, and his own private gym to work out of.
It's ironic then that he should still be so worried about a "spy" in his midst, but both Jackson and boxing coach Mark Kinney both insisted that the spying incident was very real and a very serious concern.
"We actually found out who the spy was and he got in big trouble," said Jackson, who declined to name names but said it "wasn't a fighter."
According to Kinney, it was "someone who knew what we were doing" and was passing the information to outside sources.
But, both men said, the team took care of it, and now Jackson thinks he may have found a permanent training camp for future fights.
"It'd be hard not to train here," he said. "Especially now [that] the spy's gone."
The real test, of course, comes on Saturday night. That's when we'll all find out how much it benefited Jackson to live and train inside this cavernous facility, with every advantage science could concoct ready at his disposal.
Gregory, whose company has its name riding on his performance in more ways than one, isn't too concerned.
"Listen, Quinton looks like he did back in the day," he said. "He's fast, he's recovered, he's nasty. And, of course, Quinton's my boy, so we believe he's going to win. We believe he's going to knock him out."