Jackson's former trainer-manager, Ibarra, tells his side of the story
Two months after Quinton "Rampage" Jackson fled police in a monster truck, the 30-year-old mixed martial artist's former trainer and manager has broken his silence.
Juanito Ibarra, who declined to address specifics regarding Jackson's highly publicized arrest, told SI.com that he found it necessary to speak out against allegations that he had siphoned away funds from Jackson over the course of their relationship.
Since the two began working together in late 2005, Jackson posted a 6-1 record. But Rampage and Ibarra severed ties in the aftermath of the fighter's UFC title-losing bout against Forrest Griffin.
SI.com: Where have you been since Jackson's arrest, and why did you choose to remain quiet?
Juanito Ibarra: I've been with my family. It's been a rough couple months. It's a mind-blowing situation for me, so I took a little vacation and tried to get Cheick [Kongo, UFC heavyweight] through his fight, and he won. But I'm starting over with projects I had on hold for a while. I'm really going to stick with what's in my heart to do what I want to do, instead of working for somebody and it being a thankless job.
SI.com: After Rampage lost, can you describe what happened with your relationship?
Ibarra: Yesterday is a cancelled check, today is cash in hand, tomorrow is a promissory note. All I know is that I gave the kid all that I've had, like he's my own son. I loved him. Since then I haven't talked to Rampage.
SI.com: Speaking with people in his camp, and hearing what Tito Ortiz said about the cost of a camp and money being taken, there are questions about whether you overcharged Jackson, or took money from him. Are you denying those allegations?
Ibarra: I've never done anything I wasn't asked to do, and that's it. I would never take anything from anybody without them giving it to me. Never.
SI.com: Why do you believe your relationship with Quinton fell apart?
Ibarra: I don't know. It's a mystery. If I had the hours to sit down with him, it would be great. I never had that opportunity. He's doing other things, and God bless him. Hopefully I helped him in his life, in his career, and so be it. I have to move on.
SI.com: Have you attempted to talk to Rampage?
Ibarra: Of course I did.
SI.com: So he has not talked to you then?
Ibarra: If he and I could have spoken, I wish he would accept me and sit down with me. But, you know, people around him -- his advisors, etc. -- said that that wasn't going to happen.
SI.com: Where do you stand right now in terms of your training of Cheick Kongo?
Ibarra: We're no longer together. He left just a couple days ago back to France to work on some personal things, and we're friends. He's been asked by his fellow workout-mates to come join what they're doing, and they were going to make it hard for him if he didn't. I don't want to stop no one from growing. They can grow with me or they can grow with somebody else.
I'm here for the fighter. I help teach kids in and out the right way if they want to listen. And if they choose to make the bad decisions, and choose to lie about what they do, and choose to have bad camps, and choose to overspend their monies, that's their choice. If they choose to be cowards, that's their choice. What's the difference between a coward and a hero? It's what the coward does that makes them a coward, and it's what the hero does that makes them a hero.
SI.com: Team Wolfslair, in a press release, mentioned that your relationship with Rampage and the UFC was contentious. Did you have a poor relationship with the UFC, and, if so, do you think that might be part of the reason why you no longer manage or train Rampage?
Ibarra: I think I had a great working relationship with the UFC. There are a lot of fantastic people in that organization. There are also some guys that aren't so fantastic. I've been through the boxing game and the MMA game ... I know who's who. But I'm a manager/trainer. I'll always go to bat for my fighter. That's my job. If a promoter wants to make things hard on me, that's his own choice to do that.
SI.com: What are you concentrating on now?
Ibarra: I have an agency that's very interested in signing me for doing seminars around the world and the country. Movie people want me to do stuff for them. There are fighters that want me to train them. I let a lot of individual opportunities pass me [by] the last four years. Being dedicated and having that client, that special client that I always have in my heart, I gave up a lot. And I'm not blaming anyone. That was my choice.
I'm working on my project that's been developed for five years and that's the youth center in Big Bear. We're going to have an unbelievable [non-profit organization] up there and help out the kids in the community. The youth center will be open at night as well as the day so they can be all they can be.
SI.com: You worked to find champion fighters and create champion fighters. Do you think that opportunity will present itself again?
Ibarra: I'll be honest, I doubted it for a while. I wish these young kids out there and these fans really know the passion that burns inside me. I respect the MMA guys unbelievably because they all respect each other. How hard they have to train, I love it. The phone calls I've gotten and the people that want me to work with them, I know that there's a champion in that handful. And if it all works out, you'll see me help create another champion.