Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's acting resume to date suggests performances slanted more toward Rowdy Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan than to Sir Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando. But who knows? Maybe someday, when his mixed martial arts career is over, fans of the former and perhaps future UFC light-heavyweight (205-pound limit) champion will get to see him playing Hamlet in Central Park.
Then again, probably not.
"I think these two guys have eclipsed any grudge match we've ever had," UFC president Dana White said of the UFC 114 main event tomorrow night at Las Vegas' MGM Grand, which pits Jackson (30-7) against another former UFC light-heavyweight titlist, "Suga" Rashad Evans. "The WWE stuff is guys out there hyping it up and trying to make it look that way. These guys really don't like each other. It doesn't get any more real than this.
"I don't think anybody can say these two guys are putting on an act, even though Rampage is now an actor."
Actually, Jackson, whose most ambitious acting job yet - as B.A. Baracus, the Mr. T role in the 1980s television series he reprises in "The A-Team" movie, which opens in theaters nationwide on June 11 - already had taken a few turns before the cameras. He has had bit roles in four films, as well as appearances in the TV comedy "The King of Queens" and the reality show "Pimp My Ride."
But it was his on-camera feud with Evans during the 10th season of Spike TV's reality show, "The Ultimate Fighter," that has reminded MMA fans of the I'll-rip-your-heart-out diatribes that are standard fare in WWE, in which professional wrestlers make outlandish claims about what they are going to do to one another before engaging in scripted, cartoonish violence.
Jackson - who considered becoming a pro rassler before turning to MMA - insists he and Evans are not posturing simply to boost pay-per-view and closed-circuit sales. During a now-infamous teleconference with the media last week, they exchanged profane taunts of a highly personal nature. If their actual fight is half as entertaining as the insult-a-thon, UFC fans should come away satisfied.
No title will be at stake, but White has promised that the winner gets the next shot at the current UFC light-heavyweight champion, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
Jackson, who has not appeared in the Octagon for nearly 15 months while he recovered from a variety of injuries and filmed "The A-Team," said that, at nearly 32, he is ready to show the world he is better than ever.
"Taking time off proved to be pretty good for my body, because it's no secret I sustained a lot of injuries," he said. "My body was kind of worn out.
"But I still feel like I'm champion in my mind. The universe has opened up for me right now. Before, I was a kid full of myself."
Evans said he's full of it, all right.
"You ain't got no heart," Evans sneeringly told Jackson during a mostly printable segment of their running debate. "You're the bleeping Tin Man. Go see ['The Wizard of] Oz.' " *