Few fighters willingly leave the UFC, the biggest promotion in mixed martial arts that offers the largest purses and widest visibility. But for months now, Quinton Jackson has been adamant in saying that's exactly what he's going to do as soon as his contract expires. That time is fast approaching. On the heels of a two-fight losing streak, Jackson is heading into the last fight on his deal before diving head-first into free agency.
It comes on Jan. 26 against Glover Teixeira in a bout that will be nationally broadcast on FOX, making it a perfect platform for launching into the future, whatever that might be.
That free agency in 2013 is fraught with unknowns and scarce in money sources seems to be of little concern to the former UFC light-heavyweight champion, who says it's not so much about the cash as it is about the respect.
According to Jackson, the UFC recently tried to approach him to negotiate a new deal, but he refused.
"I don't want to renegotiate with them," he said on Tuesday.
"I think the UFC don't know how to treat the athletes, in my opinion," he continued. "I feel like the fighters do a lot for the sport and I feel like we're not taken care of well enough. I feel like they're getting rich off all of us."
The UFC has been valued by some media sources as a $2 billion sports property, leading some credence to Jackson's claims. On the other hand, Jackson has reportedly made millions while fighting for the promotion, and in 2011, said that he and his sponsors spent $1 million on a single training camp.
Despite those particulars being shaded in gray, his insistence on leaving the situation has been a head-scratcher to many. Jackson though, is under the belief that it's the best possible outcome for both parties, saying he believes that that the UFC is as happy with him leaving as he will be to walk away.
With Teixeira on the immediate horizon, the 34-year-old Jackson hasn't spent too much time considering his future options, although he does have some thoughts on what could be next.
"You know what? Honestly I put my time in. I did my thing," he said. "I feel like I think my next challenge is if I go somewhere, I want to be very exciting. Maybe I want to try some boxing and see if I do some boxing or kickboxing … I think my strategy, I’ve done jiu-jitsu tournaments, wrestling tournaments, kickboxing fights, but I’ve never done boxing. I think that’s my biggest challenge, to see if I can be a pro boxer. I hear Kimbo Slice is doing pretty good."
Perhaps Jackson figured he would be getting of a boxing tuneup when he faces Teixeira, a powerful Brazilian known for his knockout power and aggression in the standup. But Jackson said that he's recently heard that Teixeira is going to take the same "cowardly" approach that he feels other fighters have taken against him, offering up a false game plan before switching to a more grappling-based plan.
"I pretty much found out from snitches on the internet that he’s trying to wrestle me and take me to ground," he said. "I kind of lost respect for him as a fighter but now I see his game plan."
In response to that, Teixeira played coy, saying, "I'm going to do my fight."
Whatever happens, Jackson said he refuses to let any negative situations get the better of him. Despite the fact that his time with the UFC is up, and that they won't let him wear the gear of his newest sponsor Reebok, and that his future is soon to be in limbo, at least he will soon finally have his destiny in his own hands.
After six years, 12 fights and a title run in the UFC, Jackson is soon to disappear, and with a smile on his face.
"I’ve been mad at UFC for long time, and it turned me into a very negative person," he said. "I just want to be a positive person. That's the first thing I do is get rid of all the negativity out of my life. I had a lot of negative friends, even some negative family members, and I'm getting rid of the UFC out of my life. I just want to be a positive person and positive role model for my kids and for other young people coming up. I just want a positive life. No matter what the outcome on Jan. 26 is, I’m going to be happy with everything because I’ve trained very hard and I trained to destroy Glover. I trained every aspect, on the ground, wrestling, standup, everything. I trained to be strong and then leave UFC on a positive note and go on with my life. The UFC will be my past."