December 30th 2006. I remember sitting on a broken chair in a dirty sport bar located in a shady plaza somewhere in a not-so-safe neighborhood. I was accompanied by my male roommate which one could assume would make me feel safer however, his lack of height and muscles kept me from feeling as ease.
The bar was divided in 2 sections: the one on the south side had few table game options such as pool and football and was occupied by few cigarette smelling baby boomers. The section on the north side of the bar was a dusty lounge area where the owner collected a dozen of mismatched sitting offers and installed some type of projector and screen system where he was illegally showing UFC fights. Thats section was occupied by about five or six college students wearing giant fake-diamonds-covered watches, shiny pewter chains and too much hair product. I still do not know how I found this place...
We sometimes forget that only four and half years ago, mma was still a taboo subject in some regions and when you were desperate to get your dose of mma and could not get your fix at home, you had to be creative and usually ended up in some sort of mafia-owned establishment. I ordered chicken wings and a pepsi. Seemed like the safest choice on the grease stained menu. As I was starting to sample this deep-fried delight, I refocused on the blurry fights projected on the giant screen. Buffer announced the next fight: Keith " the Dean of Mean" Jardine versus Forrest Griffin. This should be good. The next minutes were a real mma-fan orgasm that let Griffin crumbled to the mat in infamous tears and to me, established Keith Jardine as the next serious contender. It was love at first sight. As I was leaving the alcoholic heaven later that night, I could not stop thinking that Keith Jardine was probably the best fighter in the world. Probably blinded by the spectator adrenaline still running through my blood and my attraction for neanderthal-looking men, I could already picture Jardine with the shiny belt around his waist.
So I became a fan and started to steadily follow The Dean of Mean's career. As I am looking back, I am afraid to realize that the following fight against Houston Alexander is probably the one who permanently damaged Jardine's "knock out" switch. The years to come were a real roller-coaster of impressive wins against Chuck Liddell and Branden Vera and devastating losses against Wanderlei Silva and Quinton Jackson.
Even after unorthodox displays of comical chicken dances, nipple pinching and horrifying grimaces, nothing could compromise the love-at-firt-sight-feeling I had for Mr. Jardine. I would argue to my crew he was still a top contender and recycle the statements released by the Jackson Gym family to validate my feelings.
However, my relationship with Jardine' s successes seemed to be one sided. I first experienced sadness when he got KO'ed by Thiago Silva. Then, my heart moved to the anger phase after his loss to Ryan Baber in Fedruary of 2010. I was still pretending everything would be okay, we can get through this. It is only a rough patch. Keith Jardine's loss to Matt Hamill could only resonate as indifference in my heart as I already started to move on to other fighting interests.
When UFC released the Dean, I knew it was all over, I had to move on completely. My last instincts of hope were barely awaken by the announcement of the Shark Fights Event scheduled on September 11th 2010.
I watched just to torture myself, to reinforce what I already knew... Keith Jardine and my fan-heart can not co-exist anymore. We will miss the good times and cry about the not-so-good times but we both need to move on to better things. I promise I will always be watching either way, hoping that one day, we can work it out.
Maybe the timing was not right.
It's not you, It's me.
Illustrattion by Alex Garant www.alexgarant.com