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Jardine can't win, even when he does

Story & photo by Chris Cozzone

For several years now, Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine has been one or two fights away from a shot at UFC’s most glamorous title, the light-heavyweight championship.

First, he upsets Forrest Griffin, at UFC 66, in December 2006, by knocking out the future champion in just under a round.

Then, he gets blasted out of contention by Houston Alexander, in his next fight, at UFC 71.

One fight later, in September 2007, Jardine upsets the oddsmakers yet again, when he floors the recently-dethroned champion, Chuck “Iceman” Liddell, on his way to a decision win, at UFC 76.

The logical choice for a title shot hits another low peak at UFC 84, however, when he is hits the canvas in just 36 seconds by former Pride champion Wanderlai Silva.

Proving himself the contender who just won’t go away, Jardine edges his way back to the top by decisioning Brandon “The Truth” Vera at UFC 89, last October.

Jardine has continued to remain, just a fight away, from his dream fight for the UFC 205-pound title.

Now, on March 7, Jardine, 14-4-1, will be one fight away from the UFC light-heavyweight championship, when he takes on former champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, in the main event of UFC 96 in Columbus, Ohio.

His fight fans might be frustrated, but “The Dean of Mean” doesn’t sweat it.

“I think it’s great getting fights like these,” says Jardine. “I’m happy for the opportunity and it’s not frustrating at all.

“It just means I have to beat someone else to get at the title, and that’s great.”

Jardine will take frustration to a new level, though, when he clashes with the man who destroyed the man who destroyed him – Silva, that is – on March 7.

The winner is likely to get a shot at the title now held by Rashad “Sugar” Evans, who dethroned Forrest Griffin in December at UFC 93.

Even if Jardine loses, he’ll remain a serious threat to any 205-pound contender, just a fight or two away from his goal . . .

But if he wins, well, Jardine will still lose.

“There’s no way I’ll take the fight with Rashad,” says an adamant Jardine. “We talked about it a long time ago, that it might happen. We both agreed, we will never fight each other.”

Jardine and Evans struck up a solid friendship while teammates on The Ultimate Fighter, Season Two. Since then, they’ve become full-time sparring partners under the Jackson’s banner in Albuquerque.

“When you fight, you fight with all your heart and soul,” says Jardine. “There’s no way you can do that against your friend.

“But I’m sure another fight will happen down the road. I’m gonna have a long career. All that stuff works out.”

Jardine, born in Butte, Mont., has been a member of Jackson’s in Albuquerque for years now. Not long after TUF 2, Evans, too, found his way to the Duke City.

“I feel very lucky to be at Jackson’s,” says Jardine, who spars and rolls with Evans, Joey Villasenor and Nate Marquardt, among others.

“I got the best guys in the world beating up on me all the time.”

Jardine knows he’s the underdog—no unfamiliar role for him—against Jackson, but, then again, he was supposed to lose against Liddell and Griffin, too.

Current odds have Jackson nearly a 3-to-1 favorite.

“I got the call to fight Quinton, and I couldn’t’ resist,” says Jardine. “I know, they think they’ll get a good fight out of me. They know I like to strike, and I’ve never been in a boring fight. They expect a good show—but, for me, not to win.

“I know Quinton is one of the hardest hitters in the game, and I definitely think he’s not the same fighter who lost to Griffin last year.

“But I’ll figure him out in the Octagon—it’s something I’m looking forward to.”



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