Inside the mind of Rampage
On July 15, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, the former UFC light heavyweight champion, lived up to his nickname. But not in a positive light.
After treating the 55 Freeway near Newport Beach, Calif., as a demolition derby, crashing into multiple cars with his raised Ford truck (which had his image emblazoned on the side), Jackson soon found himself behind prison bars.
"I was very scared for him," said a source close to Jackson who asked not to be identified.
Rampage's seismic shift from an idolized mixed martial artist began after he relinquished his title on points to Forrest Griffin UFC 86 on July 5. The decision to fire Juanito Ibarra, his trainer, manager and occasionally spiritual mentor, came shortly thereafter. A lack of food and sleep compounded unsettling behavior, and TMZ photos of Jackson face down in the street at the rear of his Bigfoot-inspired truck -- its left front tire shredded -- documented the result of a dangerous chase with police
Word of Jackson's arrest spread quickly, and within hours, Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White flew in from Las Vegas with $25,000 cash in hand. Finding a bail bondsman, Ibarra, who has ignored repeated attempts for comment since the incident, also appeared ready to bail Rampage out of jail.
Upon Jackson's release, the plan was to make the switch from a Costa Mesa jail cell to a psychiatric hospital bed. He refused help, and no one was going to convince him otherwise. The only place he was headed was home.
Rampage demanded silence when he wasn't offering words of faith. He spoke of a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and people aligned with the devil.
"Mentally he wasn't there," said the source. "It was almost as if he was possessed. He heard voices. He thought he was a God."
Talk amongst people in the house turned to the need for medical help. At first, they tried convincing Rampage to head for the hospital. That failed, tempers flared and police, thankfully, intervened. Several hours later, the fighter was under psychiatric hold.
"He went very easy" with police, said the source.
Three days later, rested and nourished, Rampage was reunited with friends.
"He would still make comments that were slightly weird," said Jackson's longtime associate. "You could tell that he wasn't all the way there, but each day you could tell he was better."
Against lawyers' advice, Jackson has gone out several times. Fan requests for autographs at a local mall have been happily fulfilled. His only other trips are to outpatient treatment, which he attends daily.
"He knows what he went through," said the source. "He knew he had an emotional breakdown that led to a mental breakdown. Not eating and not sleeping kind of helped with that."
In 2004, Jackson experienced a similar incident when he claimed he was touched by Jesus in a dream, scaring him enough to bolt from his apartment with his son D'Angelo in tow. That night he was born again.
Jackson, a Memphis native, was hardly a modest man. With his MMA success, family and friends wondered how he was going to deal with a life that now demanded giving so much to something other than himself.
In reality, the answer could have applied to D'Angelo, born from a relationship during his wrestling days at Lassen Community College in Northern California. And his faith.
The pressure to live an evangelical life weighed heavy. Jackson became celibate and focused his mental and physical energy on training for his Oct. 31, 2004 fight against Wanderlei Silva, the PRIDE 205-pound champion who had previously caved in Jackson's head with over 20 consecutive knees roughly a year prior.
While the first month of balancing his new-found faith with everyday life was a cakewalk, the same could not be said for the second month. After reading on the Internet that fasting would keep the devil away, Jackson abstained from food for three days, ingesting only water and keeping details of his diet secretive.
What Jackson didn't realize was his fast had depleted his body and virtually killed any chance of defeating Silva. An inspired opening round gave way to fatigue in the second for Jackson, while Silva, not needing any kind of edge to begin with, brutally beat Rampage until he was unconscious and lay motionless between ropes.
But the loss in the ring did nothing to quell Rampage's relationship with the higher power. Rather, news that his father, who had abandoned him when he was 10 years old and was also born again, provided additional proof that everything happens for a reason. The loss to Silva was, therefore, easier to deal with, and the backdrop for Jackson's future relationship with Ibarra slowly unfolded.
In talking with Jackson about leading his promising career, Ibarra preached his faith as if he were leading a congregation. His gospel-like tune continued to play throughout their time together, as each training camp featured religious themes were displayed prominently around the gym. Ibarra's "son" believed in himself again, and pieces appeared to fall into place when Jackson defeated Chuck Liddell for a second time May of last year.
The victory, Rampage would tell me in a rambling late-night call from Ireland a month later, was already decided.
"Ya'll don't see how it was just perfect timing?" he asked. "Ya'll don't see that it was written? Ya'll can't see that that was planned? That that was destiny? Ya'll don't see that cause ya'll don't have the eyes that I have. You don't know what God stored in me. I'm God's street soldier. No matter what happens I will always be God's street soldier, and I always know he's going to take care of me. And everything's going to be OK."
Everything, save the pact between Jackson and Ibarra. With defeat as the impetus, Jackson responded to rough terrain by relieving the trainer of his duties, though "bottom line, somehow, someway it all involves money," said the fighter's friend.
As an Aug. 15 court date approaches for the 30-year-old father of four, a search for a new representation is underway. And, though he is only two weeks removed from an incident that allegedly sent pedestrians scurrying for their lives, the UFC is said to be interested in a November return for Rampage with a third fight against Silva.
His appearance in the cage will depend primarily on his mental state. But, as Jackson says himself, everything happens for a reason.