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On a Rampage

Religion and a new trainer take Jackson to the top

Posted: Friday July 6, 2007 1:41PM; Updated: Friday July 6, 2007 4:47PM
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Before Quinton Jackson (above) became a household name by beating Chuck Liddell, he was one of Pride's most feared fighters.
Before Quinton Jackson (above) became a household name by beating Chuck Liddell, he was one of Pride's most feared fighters.
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By David Epstein, SI.com

It wasn't a motion typical of sports. It wasn't a motion typical of anything, save, perhaps, the carnival game where a contestant slams a hammer down to send a weight hurtling skyward toward a bell.

On June 20, 2004, at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan -- the venue for Pride: Critical Countdown -- the contestant was Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, now famous for his May felling of Chuck Liddell. Brazilian Ricardo Arona played the part of the giant mallet.

Seven-and-a-half minutes into the first round, Arona was underneath Jackson but in control with his ankles locked behind Jackson's back, working toward a triangle choke. Then: hammer time.

With his feet not entirely underneath him, and a 200-pound Brazilian necklace dangling from his chest, Jackson managed to stand up. In an instant, Arona was sitting upright on the 6-foot-1 Jackson's shoulders. And then the whole intricate tangle of arms and legs came crashing down. Jackson injected such violent force through Arona and into the canvas that Arona's head shot back up after the impact and slammed into Jackson's forehead, bloodying the right side of Arona's face.

That slam, more an intuitive brawler tactic than a calculated martial arts counter measure, shattered both men -- Arona right there in the ring, where he lay unconscious -- and Jackson -- who celebrated his 26th birthday that night -- in the weeks to follow.

"After that Arona slam, I was partying so much," Jackson says. "That was the biggest slam and all my friends were buying me drinks and it got to when I would be at home like, 'Man, I feel like drinking.'"

Before he would enter another ring, and in the midst of his nascent spiral into alcoholism, Jackson had a dream. "I dreamt that the devil had his hands in my chest and he was trying to steal my soul," he said. Jackson's son D'Angelo, now 7, dreamt about God and the devil the same night. Where other people might have seen coincidence, and Freud might have seen repressed feelings of guilt, Jackson saw a new path.

After he awoke from his soul-stealing dream, Jackson dropped D'Angelo off at preschool and flipped on his car radio. "It was an ad for that ride [Revenge of the Mummy] at Universal Studios," Jackson says. "The first thing it said was like, 'Your soul is miiiiine!' That scared the hell out of me. I turned the radio off."

That day was the start of Jackson's life as a born-again Christian.

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