The UFC were in Denver, Colorado today to officially announce UFC 135: Jones Vs Rampage which will take place on September 24th.
In attendance were UFC president Dana White plus headline stars Jon Jones and Rampage Jackson, and you can find out what they had to say for themselves in one of the most entertaining pressers in recent memory via the keynotes below.
– First question is whether Rampage and Jones attach any significance to the fact that this will be only the second UFC main event ever to feature two African American’s. Both men shrug this off and say it doesn’t matter. “It’s 2011” Rampage adds, “It’s no big deal.”
– Dana says it’s good to be back in Denver where the UFC’s first events were held. He admits they’ve tested the waters with smaller events in the region in more recent times and are now looking forward to bringing a major show to the area.
– The first laughs of the presser come as a reporter asks Rampage if he feels he’s representing “the old school” in this encounter, being the veteran going up against the younger Jones.
“Who you calling a kid buddy…I’m 24 today alright!” interjected birthday boy Jon Jones, before Rampage added, “Who you calling old dawg, I’m only 33 man. Goodness! You all act like I’m Randy Couture’s decrepit old ass!”
In the end Rampage did grudgingly admit that he was representing the old school. “With old school come a lot of experience. He’s the youngest champion, but I think he’s the least experienced champion in UFC history. All that stuff don’t matter to me, I just come to fight and get my belt back, that’s the only thing I care about.”
Jones states his belief that it’s in fact Brock Lesnar that’s the least experienced champion. He goes on to say that he respects Rampage and used to watch him fight when he was in high school and college. He believes that this is a fight that can “elevate” his status since his opponent has accomplished so much in the sport.
“I believe you steal a little bit of their thunder, their acollades [when you beat them],” Jones claims, to which Rampage responds in an exaggerated deep voice, “I’m keeping my thunder!”
“Thunder down under!” Jones adds before Rampage fires back with a chuckle, “he’s going down under!”
– Rampage is clearly in a jovial mood and it’s not long before he’s got the whole room laughing again as White responds to a question about when they will be coming back to Denver again by saying, “We didn’t even come yet.”
“That’s what she said,” Rampage joked in response before briefly getting up from the podium and heading to the sidelines to laugh it up before coming back and apologizing to Dana, “My bad. You know I’m silly, you got to be careful what you say!”
– Asked how this fight is going to play out Rampage answers in a booming voice, “I see Jon Jones getting destroyed. I want my belt back, I ain’t playin’.”
“Is there any replica belts we can give Rampage real quick?” Jones jokingly enquires.
“We know you don’t like replica belts, what you talking about?” Rampage responds, referencing an interview a few days ago where Jones said he didn’t like when fans asked him to sign replica belts.
Jackson then points out that he already has three belts including the PRIDE and two UFC ones.
Getting back to the original question Jones claims he’s not specifically looking to knock Rampage out, but rather is just aiming to end the fight by any means possible, “whether it’s by TKO, submission or knockout.”
– Talking about mindset going into this fight Rampage claims he’s in a ‘win-win’ situation. He feels he’s already a winner no matter what happens because he’s been successful in his career while many of the people who he grew up with aren’t even around anymore due to poor choices they made.
He also feels that Jones is like his rival Rashad Evans in that he’s cocky, whereas Rampage believes he is confident. “The last time I felt this confident I got that belt,” he adds.
– Regarding a perceived lack of motivation in recent times, Rampage denies this is the case and says he’s never lacked the motiviation to “whoop somebody’s ass.” He admits he may have some more movie’s coming up in the future but he sees the two things as separate entities and claims that he’s turned down some roles in order to fight.
Jackson does admit that there’s lots of things he wants to do when he finishes fighting however, including joking that he wants to “have a motorboating contest” – a reference to his now infamous motorboating comment aimed at Karyn Bryant backstage after his last fight.
– Jones is asked whether he feels under extra pressure and scrutiny now that he’s the champion and is seen as one of the leaders of the next generation of fighters. He says he just tries to be himself, stay positive and “keep the faith that I can be something great in this sport in the future.”
– Coping with the altitude in Denver could be a factor in the fight so Rampage confirms he is training here already to aclimitize himself. Jones says training at Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico isn’t too different altitude wise and that his camp has a strong focus on cardio anyway so he doesn’t think it’ll be a factor for him.
– Dana states, “It’s going to take a real special person to hold that [205lb] belt for a long time,” noting that the light-heavyweight division is one of the most exciting and stacked divisions in the sport.
– Both fighters claim that they don’t hold any real animosity towards each other and so haven’t been compelled to trade verbal jabs at each other so far.
– Despite training in Denver Rampage confirms he is still part of ‘The Wolfslair’ and makes a point of adding that he gets tired of people asking him that every fight. “We’re a team, we could train on the moon and still be Wolfslair!”
– Jones admits that a move to heavyweight is more than likely in his future, perhaps when he’s around 26 or 27 (3 or 4 years time).
– Moving briefly onto Strikeforce matters, White confirms that Alistair Overeem hurt his toe and so is out of the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP. Despite rumors he is still under contract however. White also points out that the date that was set for the semi-finals was dictated by Showtime, not Zuffa.
– Asked about who gets the next title shot at 205lbs, White points to Rashad Evans as the No.1 contender if he can get past Tito Ortiz at UFC 133 next month. If Ortiz wins then White admits they’d need to sit down and think about it. He doesn’t rule out the possibility that Ortiz could get the shot however given that he’ll have beaten two highly ranked contenders in a row. “It’s a tough question,” he confesses.
– Jones is questioned on his gameplan, and whether he’ll use wrestling. Before he can answer Rampage interrupts by saying, “You know he is, c’mon man! Who been standing with me dawg? Who been actually doing mixed martial arts with me? everybody been wrestling me.”
Jones is more serious in his response though, pointing out that he was happy to stand and trade with a versatile striker like ‘Shogun’ Rua. He believes Rampage has more predictable striker – more like fighting a boxer – and states that if Rampage thinks he’ll be intimidated to stand with him then he’s in for a surprise.
Then it’s back to Rampage who tells Jones, “I just have to say, I respect you dawg, I do think you are the future of MMA, straight up…but, you fought Shogun when he was rusty as hell dawg, he was coming off an injury, he hadn’t fought in a year…like two knee surgeries…”
“…There’ll always be excuses,” Jones interrupted, clearly not liking what Rampage was insinuating. “I’m sure after I beat you they’ll say, ‘You didn’t beat the PRIDE Rampage, you fought the movie star Rampage,” which brought a few boos from the crowd.
Rampage didn’t take the bait though. “You’re right, there’s always excuses. I got at least three excuses for everytime I lost, I ain’t gonna lie. I’ve got a bunch of them!”
Jones then asks him if he’s got any excuses ready right now, and rampage tells him that he’s not going to need them after this fight, but that Jones will.
– Asked about the level of interest in MMA amongst women, White admits that they didn’t plan for it when they bought the company, but that now around 45% of the fan-base is female and he points to a news story recently on FOX which documented that females are now taking ‘girl trips’ to Las Vegas to watch the UFC fights.
Rampage really is on fine form today and he gets back on the mike to say how happy he is that there’s more females interested in the sport now as he gets weirded out by all the male attention he gets. “Next question please!” White jokes as Rampage really starts to get into his stride about how much he likes the idea of more girls becoming fans.
– Dana says he doesn’t believe they are competing with the likes of the NBA and MLB in terms of their market share of the sports market, pointing out that they have two different business models, with the UFC focusing on pay-per-view and being all-year-round rather than seasonal.
– A fan questions Dana on his relationship with Lyoto Machida at the moment. White responds, “things are going to work out with Machida.”
– Regarding the possibility of Anderson Silva fighting the winner of Jones Vs Rampage, White states that the Brazilian wants to continue fighting at middleweight. He also points out that even if Jones does win against Rampage he still needs to be given time to continue to fight other contenders before being thrown into a ‘superfight’ scenario.
– Who will the two light-heavyweights be cheering for when Tito Ortiz meets Rashad Evans? Rampage says he’s “cool with Tito” so he’ll be rooting for him, while Jones says he wants Evans to win so he can fight him and prove that he would never duck a fight.
– Rampage reveals that his hand is doing fine and that he didn’t actually re-injure it during his last fight. He’s going to ‘baby it’ now, wrapping his hand carefully to ensure he doesn’t have any problem with it in this camp.
“What hand was that again?” Jones teases.
– Somebody else questions Jones about the allegation that he faked a hand injury to avoid a fight with Evans. Jones denies this, and then Dana also jumps in to clarify that when any UFC fighter gets a serious injury the UFC flies them to Las Vegas to get seen by a specialist so it’s impossible to fake it.
Mimicking Jones, Rampage then pipes up with, “what hand was that?” which amuses Dana.
– Asked about UFC DVD’s for Versus and Fight Night cards, White confesses that the DVD business isn’t what it once was so those events may not make it to that medium.
– Someone asks what Rampage thinks of Chael Sonnen who recently said that all PRIDE fights were fixed. “There’s something wrong with him! For real, there’s something wrong with him. When people are slow you kind of pity them, so I don’t even concentrate on Chael Sonnen. If Chael Sonnen walked past me right now I wouldn’t even know who he is. Straight up!”
– Looking a little further into the future, White says he loves the upcoming BJ Penn Vs Carlos Condit fight at UFC 137 and confirms that the winner of that could well face the winner of GSP Vs Nick Diaz which is scheduled for the same event.
And that was that! Overall impressions were that Rampage was in as good spirits as I can ever recall him during his time in the UFC. By contrast Jones was a little more serious and seemed to get a little uncomfortable any time a verbal jab was aimed in his direction by his opponent. Jones looks very determined and focused though even at this stage with a couple of months still to go, so there’s no question that Jackson will have to bring his a-game to the Octagon if he does want to take back that belt.