It wasn't too long ago that former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson shocked the mixed martial arts (MMA) universe when he declared that he was "done fighting" and "hanging it up."
It was Sept. 2009 to be precise.
"Rampage" was already on the road back to redemption after losing his 205-pound title to Forrest Griffin just a year earlier. And the promotion was intent on fast-tracking it, rewarding him with a high-profile role as coach on its "The Ultimate Fighter" television reality series opposite Rashad Evans.
At the conclusion of the show, the pair would duke it out in the featured fight of a major pay-per-view (PPV) event in Memphis, Tenn., which is none other than Jackson's hometown. He would certainly get the lion's share of the promotion's marketing muscle.
Life appeared good for Jackson. But then, just like that, it all fell apart. That's how it seemed, anyway.
Jackson was offered a chance to play B.A. Baracus on a feature-film version of "The A-Team." It was a childhood dream come true -- he and his father bonded while watching the original television series when he was younger. It was also a rare opportunity to crossover into acting, legitimately ("The Midnight Meat Train" and other bit parts on C-level movies don't really count), with a major motion picture.
You see, no one fights forever. And Jackson -- who had already competed 37 times in a career that spanned more than a decade -- was looking to the future.
Jackson requested that the promotion delay the fight with Evans because the timing conflicted with the production of his new "A-Team" gig. But with the date and carefully-selected venue already set, and its belief that Jackson was a fighter first, actor second, the UFC wouldn't budge
The stand off quickly erupted publicly after Jackson decided to withdraw from the fight. Company president Dana White was irate, telling reporters that he felt Jackson "(expletive) me." He was "really upset" that Jackson "screwed up the rest of our year" and admitted that they were "not even talking."
That's when Jackson dropped his retirement bombshell. He even mentioned a few other reasons for his rash decision, all of which bordered on feelings of disrespect and untruths. Jackson, too, was upset and felt that his second career (acting), which "could very well last longer" than his fight career," was "in jeopardy."
Long story short: Jackson went on to make the movie, announced his intentions to return to MMA just three months after his premature retirement, fought (and lost to) Evans in May of 2010 and his since kissed and made up (again) with White.
In fact, he is once again riding another two-fight win streak and is lined up to challenge reigning light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in the UFC 135 main event, which is set to take place at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo., on Sept. 24, 2011.
This time, however, he is not going to let Hollywood gossip and his post-fight career intentions distract him from doing his "day job" to the best of his ability.
"What does [being in movies] gotta do with not being determined to whoop somebody's ass?," Jackson said. "I got a whole bunch of movies coming up, but they ain't got nothing to do with my day job. I turned down a bunch of movies to fight. There was a lot of movies I was supposed to be in, I can name 'em off but I said no. I did Ultimate Fighters and I did fights and stuff like that. This is my day job. This is what pays my bills. This is what puts my kids through college and stuff like that."
Jackson did not elaborate on those offers specifically; however, he has a small part in the upcoming "Duel of Legends," which is set for an Oct. 2011 release. He has also been rumored to be in the running to play comic book superhero Luke Cage in a future Marvel-inspired movie.
Despite the several irons that he apparently has in his acting fire, Jackson wants to make it crystal clear heading into his showdown with "Bones" that he is indeed a fighter first, actor second.
"Just because I want to have a career after I get done fighting, nobody should think I'm not determined and not have passion," he said. "This is my career. This is my life. I don't lack any passion. This is what I do. But yeah, I got lots of things I want to do. I wanna design video games, a whole lot of things. I want to make motor-boating contests. There's a lot of stuff I wanna design and I wanna do. After I get done fighting, I'm gonna go and pursue other things, but don't hate on me because I want to have a career after MMA."
With just two years left until his self-imposed "real" retirement from the sport at 35, the clock is ticking for Jackson, 33, to make the most out of his already successful fighting career. With a win over Jones later this fall, he'll have the opportunity to go out on top and parlay that championship success into the second phase of his life.
Unless, perhaps, a new role comes along sooner that he just can't pass up.