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Keith Jardine Talks Thiago Silva Fight, Brock Lesnar, and Techno Viking

No one can confidently say Keith Jardine's UFC 102 fight against Thiago Silva is a must-win situation for "The Dean of Mean." Sure, he's coming off a unanimous decision loss to Rampage Jackson at UFC 96, but he also seemed to raise his stock in standing toe-to-toe with the hard-hitting Jackson for three full rounds.

FanHouse spoke to Jardine about reinventing his game for his fight against Silva and the balancing act when it comes to marketing oneself to the fans. The full interview is below.

Ariel Helwani: You've alternated between wins and losses in your last six fights, and you are coming off a loss. So I guess that means you're definitely winning this fight, right?
Keith Jardine: (Laughs) It would appear so, huh?

How frustrating has it been to not be able to get on some kind of roll while beating some of the bigger names in the division?
I try to keep it all in perspective, and the main thing is I'm fighting in the co-main event in Portland, Ore., against a real tough, top rated guy -- what more could I want? And the other thing is that I really do keep improving. In this fight you're going to see a lot better Keith Jardine than you did in the last fight, which was better than the last fight. And that's what's most important to me. I'm going to work it all out, and to me, that's what this fight is: it's the new Keith Jardine on my way to the top of the UFC.

How is this Keith Jardine different from the one we last saw at UFC 96?
In 96, I was just a hair away, and we went back, we evaluated that fight and a lot of my other fights, and we've fixed a lot of the shortcomings that I've had, a lot of mistakes I was doing, a lot of holes in my game. I think we've addressed all those problems, and I'm excited to run out there and show them off a little bit.

Are you willing to share what you think was the biggest weakness in your game leading up to this point?
Sure, um ... no, I don't think so (laughs). Maybe after this fight when we know how it works.

Fair enough. You know, a lot of people awarded you a moral victory after the Jackson fight because you hung in there with him for three full rounds. Did you do the same?
A loss is a loss. ... I talked to one of the judges after the fight, and he said I was winning the fight up until the last 10 seconds of the fight, so that's how close it was. There's no moral victory on a loss. Actually, that was the hardest one I've had to deal with because I was so close; I did work so hard for that fight. But again, it's just about keeping things in perspective. I improved from the Vera fight to that fight, and now I've improved a lot more since. And that's the important thing: if I keep on this rate, pretty soon I will find a way to the top of the UFC.

So a close fight like that hurts more than, say, when you were knocked out early by Wanderlei Silva at UFC 84?
Yeah. The Wanderlei Silva fight was ... he baited me early on, I made a mistake, and he got me with a beautiful overhand. To me, that fight never even happened. I wish it would have; it would have been a great fight. That's the way I look at it.

Did it bother you that the UFC brought in one of your teammates, Rashad Evans, to face off with Jackson just seconds after the decision was announced?
Not a bit. Not a bit. Rashad deserves everything he gets, and that's a great match-up for him against Quinton.

Prior to his loss against Lyoto Machida at UFC 94, Silva looked pretty unbeatable in the UFC. Have you been studying that fight, or do you view it as just an anomaly?
I don't know what it was, honestly, because all of a sudden Machida's looking a lot better now, and I don't know how much stock you can put into a loss against Machida because no one's figured him out, and clearly Silva went in and did that fight with a complete wrong game plan. So no one's figured out that puzzle yet, so there's not a lot of stock to be put in that. So you're absolutely right; I've been looking at a lot of the previous fights before that.

Keith JardineWhat was so wrong about his game plan against Machida?
He just went out and wanted to put a lot of pressure on Machida. He's best in a scramble situation. He likes the fight going to the ground. He likes takedowns, defending takedowns, and clinching up. He likes knees and elbows; he likes that scramble situation, and he tried to force that on Machida, and Machida wasn't having none of it.

Is it safe to say that you want to keep this fight standing?
I like my chances standing with him, but I'm prepared. I think he's going to try force a takedown in this fight, and I'm prepared for that. I'm ready for both.

Has the prospect of losing two in a row been hanging over your head in preparing for this fight? In other words, do you feel any extra pressure due to the competitive nature of the UFC light heavyweight division?
No extra pressure. It's not the way I approach fights, I just think about the fight, and everything else will take care of itself. I've got a real tough guy to fight. Honestly, I really don't think about my place in the UFC and all of that. When I start training for a fight, all I care about is the fight. It's not a sport; it's not a race or something; it's not a game -- it's an actual fight. Once you get that call that you're fighting somebody, you quit thinking so much about, What am I going to do to get a title and my place in the UFC, it's just, I've got to fight this guy in 2 months, and that's that. That's all that counts.

How will you spend the next few days before the fight?
I'm going to take a couple of days off right now, and then it's going to be small workouts up until the fight ... just recover. The thing about training is that at this point I've been doing really good sparring, everything's looking great. I've been doing it with a new opponent every round, and I've been winning every single round. But when you go home and you think about it, at the very best right now, I'm at about 85% at the very best of my conditioning, because I am so trained, and I am so beat up right now. With this next week off, it's like you feel like Superman at the end of the week. You move so fast, and everything's so sharp. And that's what you need the week for: to get that eight weeks of training out, and you've got to get your recovery from that.

So you will essentially look to recharge your batteries.
Exactly. And just the small workouts to keep everything moving.

Who have you been sparring with?
You know who's been helping me out a lot this camp is Brian Stann. He's a newer member of our team, and he's greatly improved. He's been helping me out a lot. Also Nate Marquardt, of course, and Eliot Marshall from Denver, and some other guys from Denver that are great boxers and kickboxers, and we've got some great kickboxers over here [in Albuquerque, NM], and some jiu jitsu guys. Eliot's a world champion jiu jitsu guy, and we're working out with just some incredible guys for this camp.

You have one of the most unique looks in the sport, yet you are very quiet and humble. Do you ever think about being more outspoken and colorful, like, say, "Rampage" Jackson, to create more of a buzz around you?
That would definitely help my career out a lot, I think. I think I may have gotten a title shot sooner if I was over the top like that, but honestly, it's just not me. I think the fans that I have like me for my blue-collar approach, and because I'm not all in your face and over the top. I'm just going to be myself; I don't need to get all WWE on anybody.

Speaking of which, I'm guessing you weren't a fan of Brock Lesnar's post-UFC 100 antics?
You know, Brock's a weird thing, man, because I've always met Brock in the background, and he's always been really humble and a really nice guy, but what he did in the cage is just disgusting. There's just no place for that in the UFC. We've come a long way, and the beautiful thing about the UFC is that you can hate somebody and go in there and fight each other for 15 minutes, and there's kind of like an old martial arts aspect in that just because the guy went in there and fought you, he earns a certain meter of respect with you. That's the beauty of our sport, and that's what a lot of people appreciate: the shaking hands at the end. Even though I still don't like you, I respect you a little bit for stepping into this cage. I thought what I saw with Lesnar's fight was disgusting, but the thing is, when you meet him in the background, he's nothing like that.

So perhaps he just needs to do a better job of keeping his emotions in check?
Oh, absolutely. It's bad for the sport and It's bad for him. I mean, it's probably good for him -- being the goat brings him fans. But I don't like it at all.

Do you really think that kind of attention is bad for the sport?
Yeah, because we've come a long ways. We're not just some biker you see in a bar fighting -- we're world professional athletes. There is that amount of respect and professionalism about it.

Why is your nickname "The Dean of Mean"?
Because when you get into the fight, when you're sparring and when you fight, that's when you put your right face on, and that's when it counts. Being mean is not about walking around just being mean to people, it's just about the way you carry yourself with adversity more than anything.

Before I let you go, I have to ask about the Techno Viking phenomenon. Are you familiar with it?
Oh Yeah.

Did you know there is an online petition to get you to do the dance on the way to the cage?
(Laughs) I never heard about that.

I kid you not.
I think it's funny, man. When people ask me on the street and stuff, I always tell them that, Yes, it was me, and it was a long time ago, and that kind of stuff. And I have a lot of fun with it, but I think I'd have to take some techno dance lessons first.

Would you ever consider doing it?
(Laughs) I think I'd rather come out to ... I like weird music, I'd rather use Tom Waits or something first.

So the Techno Viking dream is never going to become a reality.
I don't know, man, I don't know. We'll see. Maybe. I like practical jokes, so we'll see what happens. I don't know if they'll let me fight in those shorts, though.

Now that would be a good way to get more fans.
I'm not trying to get more fans, man. I just want to win fights, and climb my way to the top.

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