NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was at his easygoing best for most of Monday's press conference at Bellator MMA headquarters promoting his Nov. 2 fight with Tito Ortiz.
He cracked jokes. He tossed drink coasters at reporters like ninja stars. When Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said that Jackson and Ortiz belong on an MMA Mt. Rushmore, Jackson said "They going to need a lot of stones for Tito's head," then laughed at his own joke off and on for several minutes while Rebney tried to answer reporters' questions.
But for one brief moment, Rampage's dark side emerged. Asked about a rumored boxing match against Roy Jones Jr., Jackson lost his smile.
"Tito came in and f--- all that up," Jackson said.
Everyone in the room laughed. Except Jackson. All of a sudden, Rampage had that familiar scowl on his face, the one that shows up when things aren't going his way.
"I think Tito f--- up that fight," Jackson said. "That whole time I was getting ready for Jones, you know, I was going to get down to 200 pounds, I was already setting up a boxing camp and everything. Then Tito signed with Bellator, I go damn, there goes my Roy Jones fight. I think the RJ fight will come down after Tito and I fight, if everything goes according to plan and everything. I'm sure that's a fight that will happen, because Jones is very interested in fighting me."
The brief-but-real reminder of Rampage's dark side came and went like a flash during an hour-long press conference promoting Bellator's first pay-per-view event at the nearby Long Beach Arena. Ortiz commanded the limelight during the presser, with his sentiments frequently echoing those of Jackson in his Bellator unveiling two months earlier.
When Ortiz expressed his disapproval of former employer UFC, Jackson would nod in approval. When Ortiz talked about his happiness in Bellator, Rampage would chime in.
"Y'all know I'm happy here," Jackson said. "Other fighters hear about how things work over here and the sweet deal I got, I knew other fighters would come over here."
Still, Jackson said he was surprised to find out Ortiz was making the switch over to the company.
"I didn't think Tito would be the first one," Jackson said. "Honestly, I was really looking forward to fighting Roy Jones. But Tito signed with them and Bellator's already done so many things for me, they made my dream come true with becoming a pro wrestler so I was like, you know what, I'll fight Tito. ... I want my first fight with Bellator to be an MMA fight anyway, I've been working on a lot of old skills I forgot about once I got addicted to knocking people out. That's all I wanted to do. It's good for me to get back into MMA and show the fans I've been I'm serious with this comeback."
Make no mistake, Rampage heard the criticism from fans and media alike when his fight with Ortiz was announced. The pair have combined to go 0-6 in their past six fights, although with the likes of Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira, Rashad Evans, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira among the opponents, it's not like these guys have been fighting cans.
"Me and Tito have been taking hits from some of the MMA fans and it's not right for a lot of never-will-bes and never-gonna-bes to call Tito and I has beens," Jackson said. "You know what I'm saying? You guys should really smack yourselves for saying that."
Rampage was just getting started, as he explained that the two former UFC light heavyweight champions and SoCal training partners have already had their fair share of gym wars.
"Me and Tito, we have heart," Rampage said. "I trained with Tito for years and I can tell you secretly there's been competition between me and Tito. I remember when I started training with him and Ricco Rodriguez, they used to kick my ass all the time, they used to enjoy it. Then I started to get a little bit better, and me and Tito started going at it a little bit harder and stuff like that. There's always been times when me and Tito wanted to go at it in training. There's been a couple times where me and Tito had some battles people will never see. Now people are going to see it out in the cage in front of everybody."
Rampaged finished with a parting shot for his skeptics.
"If you guys don't believe me that I'm back, watch me on Nov. 2."