Last week on MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan we caught of the former UFC light heavyweight stalwart Keith Jardine. Being as candid as I can, let me say the best interviews are often a function of the honesty and willingness to be forthcoming of the interviewee. Jardine was excellent in that respect, taking us through what went wrong towards the tail end of his last UFC run, if he's happy still fighting and where he sees the rest of his career going.
The next stop is against the third wrestler in a row he's faced: Trevor Prangley at Shark Fights on September 11. "The Dean of Mean" seems prepared despite some crushing setbacks. We talk to him about that and more. Without further ado, here's Keith in his own words.
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LT: Alright, let's get to our esteemed guest. With us on the line is one of the foremost-- or "former," I should say, former UFC light-heavyweights. He has a rabid fanbase and is taking on Trevor Prangley, September 11 at Shark Fights. The one and only "Dean of Mean," Keith Jardine. Keith, how are you, my friend?
KJ: Hey, I'm pretty good, man. Just kickin' back, watchin' some TV right now.
LT: Did you watch the fights last night?
KJ: No, I watched the Randy [Couture] fight, but I didn't watch any of the other ones.
LT: Are you an MMA fan? I know that some pro fighters I've talked to, they're rabid about it, they consume it all, others not so much. Where do you stand on that?
KJ: You know, it really depends on where I'm at in my training. Right now, I'm getting pretty close to my fight, so on a Saturday night I just want to kind of chill out and be a regular person and not watch my work. But right after my fight, I'll be the biggest UFC fan there is.
LT: Walk me through a week. So, you're training, let me assume, twice a day, six days a week. Is that right?
KJ: Yeah. Twice a day five days a week, and once on the sixth day.
LT: Okay, and is it-- how do you divide it up? Do you do wrestling, conditioning, grappling and striking? How do your sessions-- how do they work?
KJ: Yeah, I break it up. I do all the sparring in the morning. Monday, Wednesday and Friday is some sort of, either grappling or wrestling, and that's more of a sparring practice. On Tuesday and Thursday is shootboxing, we do kickboxing with takedowns with the big gloves on. And then in the afternoon there's always some sort of conditioning, whether it be strength conditioning, or hitting mitts, or just straight conditioning practice. It's always something like that in the evenings.
LT: Is this the best Greg Jackson's camp has ever been? It seems like-- now you have Yoshihiro Akiyama, who recently joined, Brian Stann is over there now, Diego Sanchez has returned-- obviously, Diego Sanchez a little too small to be the best training partner ever for you, but you get the idea. Is this the best it's ever been?
KJ: No, I wouldn't say that. I still reminisce back to the old days when Rashad and Nate-- it was just me, Rashad, Nate and Joey. That was always the core, you know, Nate Marquardt and Rashad Evans and Joey Villasenor. We were all there and comin' up together. To me, that was the best, but for sure we're getting a lot of new names and we're getting a lot more stars in right now. But, man, I still love lookin' back to those days.
LT: So let me ask you where you are in your career here, Keith. You were with the UFC, starting from 2005, late 2005, but all the way up here to 2010. This is your first fight out in five years - how does it feel?
KJ: You know, I haven't had much time to think about it, really, because once the UFC released me, I was basically-- first of all, all the offers that came in for fights were just incredible and made me feel pretty good. And I just wanted to get a fight as quick as possible, and then Shark Fights called right away - I mean, like, the next week - and I accepted the fight. And so I've been in training mode ever since, so I think after this fight's over, I think I'm gonna take a couple weeks.
LT: This card that Strikeforce has lined up-- excuse me, not Strikeforce, Shark Fights, bit of a brain fart there. Let me actually take a step back before I ask that question. You said you got a lot of offers - can you tell us who gave you some offers? We're kinda curious.
KJ: You know, just strange offers. Offers from overseas and... just fight organizations around the country. But, surprisingly, not the big ones. I don't think I heard from Bellator or Strikeforce or anything like that. It was just a lot of upstarts, like Shark Fights.
LT: And this Shark Fights contract. The show, you look at it, it's the most stacked show I've ever seen for a non-Strikeforce, non-UFC, American card. I mean, even the undercard is ridiculously stacked. What is your contract status with them? Loretta Hunt - and I'm not sure if she told me this was the case with you, but with a lot of the guys on that card - [she said] it was a one-fight deal. Is your deal a one-fight deal?
KJ: Yeah, absolutely. That's all we wanted to do is the one fight. And I'm not saying I wouldn't like to fight for these guys again, because I'll never forget this opportunity they're giving me, but my goal is always to get back in the UFC and get back in the title picture. And we made no bones about it. We told 'em that that's what this fight is for me, a chance to get back in the ring and get out of the slump that I've been in, and get right back in the title picture in the UFC.
LT: When you look back at your career, you've had a lot of great wins, you had some losses here at the end of the last bit of your run. In fact, obviously I want to talk about the Matt Hamill fight a little bit more in detail here in just a second. In your mind, though, if we start at the Quinton Jackson fight - which you were winning, you got clipped at the end - you know, what happened there? What went wrong in your mind?
KJ: You mean with my career?
LT: Well, not with your career per se, but like, the Thiago Silva fight didn't go your way, the Bader fight didn't go your way, the Hamill fight. Was it something in training? Was it something in your personal life? Or was it just that these guys are really good and that's kind of what happens?
KJ: No, my personal life is good and training... I can tell you a couple things that I've done wrong, but that Quinton Jackson fight, you know, just going into that last round, it was a close fight and I was just assuming that I was behind because it was close, and I was trying to finish the fight and that's why I ran into a punch. And I had no idea that I was that far ahead at that time. So, man, how things could have changed. But now, during this camp, I've really realized something - I'm on a four-fight losing streak, and three of those four fights could've gone the other way easily. It was almost just like bad luck sometimes. The Bader fight I had well in hand until I got clipped at the end, and it was definitely an early stop. And I would've had a lot to come back from, but still, it was an early stop. So all these things happen quick and the way I reacted to them was I went back to work and train harder than ever. And each fight, I trained harder than ever. By the time I got to the Hamill fight, talking to my coaches and stuff, you wouldn't believe some of the training stuff I was doing. Just like these incredible exercises every day. And I was kinda talkin' to one of my coaches, Chris Luttrell, and I go, "man, I was so far over-trained, I was so bad over-trained, how did you guys-- you guys should've held me back a little bit." And Chris was like, "man, you should've seen you, man," like, "it was too late to step in, there was no stopping you." So, by the time I got to the fight, I was... I trained the hardest I've ever trained at that Hamill fight and I got so tired in that fight, and it was just because I was so severely over-trained. And that's what I kept doing to myself. Each fight, I was just like, "well, the only way to solve this is to go back and work harder," and I'd go back and work harder and I was actually hurting myself. So now, this camp, I've pulled back a little bit and I'm doing things now in training that I haven't done in a long time. Doing, like, numbers of rounds, just trying to get tired, and I can't possibly get tired. And it's just a different feeling, and it gives me a lot of confidence goin' into this fight.
LT: You're in Shark Fights now, but you've got an opponent who is no joke. Trevor Prangley, a strong, brute guy, great wrestler, good grappler as well. This is a difficult fight for you, so I'm asking - you know, the Hamill fight, you had to know your career in the UFC was kind of hinging on that win or loss - but with Trevor Prangley, is there more or less pressure? 'Cause you could look at it two ways. You could say, one: well you know, listen, it's not the UFC, but you wanna get back there, so winning is important. On the other hand, you know, maybe it's not that big a deal because there's not all the eyeballs on you that there were in the UFC, you don't feel that pressure. Where does the pressure on you stand in this Trevor Prangley fight?
KJ: You know, yeah, I'm really not feeling the pressure. I think I had 13-14 fights in the UFC, a lot of those against killers, just incredible guys, and I'm at the point in my career where there's just not that kind of pressure. There's always pressure, you need the pressure, but if I can't handle it now, then I've been doin' something wrong for sure. The thing about Prangley is... you know... The point of me leaving the UFC, I know, they want me to go beat up a couple guys and come back in, 'cause I was at a point in the UFC where I can't just get, like, some newcomer to the UFC. It wouldn't be fair for me to fight 'em. So now, I come out of the UFC and I'm fighting a guy that could beat a lot of the 205-pounders and a lot of 185-pounders in the UFC and... it's not quite the way it was supposed to happen, but, you know, that's why I fight. I wanna fight all the best fighters, and Prangley's an incredible fighter. He's not the most exciting fighter in the world - that's why he's not beating up people in the UFC - but he's definitely a tough guy.
LT: He is a top guy. Let me ask you, is it-- and I know, certainly, your inclination and your desire to fight the top guys is highly commendable. Let me give you an argument, you tell me whether I'm right or I'm wrong. I'm not saying it's my opinion, but let me just make the argument for argument's sake. If you wanna get back to the UFC, which you are capable of doing, perhaps it's best not to fight an easy opponent, but one that isn't quite this tough at this stage in your rebound. How do you respond to that argument?
KJ: Oh, you're absolutely right. If I was a smarter guy, then I'd go beat up a couple guys and get a couple knockouts and get back in there. But, yeah, my ego gets in the way and I'm not that smart sometimes when it comes to my career.
LT: Did any of your teammates or your coaches give you any advice about who you should probably take on or not take on?
KJ: No, not really. We try and stay out of each other's business when it comes to that.
LT: Yeah? Let me ask you, how many wins do you think it's gonna take before the UFC says, "you know what, you can come back?" Because you're in a different position that Tim Sylvia. Tim Sylvia's beating up guys obviously not quite the caliber of Trevor Prangley, but Dana White said, "listen, he gets a couple more of these wins, we might consider it." But you're in a different position because they didn't really wanna cut you. They liked you a lot, Dana White was effusive with praise. In your judgment, how many wins before they come calling again?
KJ: You know, I figure two. But if I have an impressive showing in a couple weeks, it could happen as fast as that. But I'm not preoccupied right now with that because I'm in training mode and this one fight is so big for me. But if I take myself out of that a little bit, I see two fights and I'm back in.
LT: Again, if you're just joining us, Keith Jardine, "The Dean of Mean," former UFC light-heavyweight and may be again one day, taking on Trevor Prangley, September 11 at Shark Fights 13, which will be available on pay-per-view. Keith, how old are you? Are you 34, 35?
LT: Thirty-four. So how long do you-- I mean, listen, we'd all like to be Randy Couture. I know I'm not. I don't know how you feel about yourself. Physically, how do you feel? You've had some wars in MMA. How much longer do you feel like you're capable of performing at a level where you're comfortable you can win the fights you're training for?
KJ: You know, I've got quite a few years left, 'cause, um... especially now, how I told you about how I've fixed my training a little bit. What the result will be-- it's probably hard to believe, but I'm definitely in my prime. I'm a much better fighter than I was a year ago, and a much better fighter than two years before that. As long as I keep getting better, I'm gonna stay at it and... Talk to my coaches, talk to anybody: I keep improving my game. I keep getting better at boxing, wrestling, every aspect of the game. So as long as I'm having fun doing it, and as long as I keep getting better, then I'm definitely gonna be in the game. And I'm havin' a blast. There's nothing else I'd rather do.
LT: Yeah, I guess I was gonna ask you that. You sound like you're in a better place for this camp. During that last four fights in the UFC when you came up short, were you havin' fun then, too? Or was that more you were mentally worried about losing your status or your place in the UFC? Is this an improved place from where you have been, or has it always been the same?
KJ: Yeah, it's definitely an improved place, 'cause like I said, after each close fight, I went back to work, I never got out of shape, and I went back to work and just trained harder than ever and did these insane workouts, these insane conditioning workouts, just thinkin' that that was the cure. And it was gettin' to be pretty hard work, and it was just so hard to get up in the morning and go to practice. And definitely after I got pretty tired in my last fight, I realized that I'm doin' something wrong and I changed it, and now it's a lot different and it's so much more fun.
LT: Alright, so I wanna move on to the Hamill fight, but before I do, I have to ask this because I have been KO'd, but only in streetfights that I lost, and it was only like one time, so I don't really know what it's like from a sporting perspective. You're 34, you sound quite lucid, you're a bright guy. You had a few TKO and KO losses. Does that ever-- do you ever get concerned about your long-term physical health given what's happened?
KJ: No, no, not really. It's a lot different than boxing, we're not getting hit in the head hundreds of times. You know, honestly, I think football was way worse on me than fighting. I played college football and just, like, all the concussions and everything suffered from playing football was way worse than this.
LT: That's actually an interesting point. Let me ask you about your college football career. Did you see more people suffering with... I don't know how to ask this. Do MMA fighters, versus football players, which do you think - from your experience, what you visually laid eyes on, what you visually saw - which had more difficult time dealing with brain-related injuries?
KJ: Oh, there's no question about it, football. I mean, yeah, those helmet-to-helmet contact, just seeing people's eyes dilate and they're acting funny in games. There's things that I've experienced in games where-- short-term memory loss, and things like that, is brutal. And I've never really experienced a lot of that in training in MMA, or even in the fights, it doesn't happen a lot where these guys get such severe head trauma. People give MMA such a hard time, but football is such a much more brutal sport with knee injuries, back injuries, neck injuries. People die every year in football, and if you're a big guy in football, your life expectancy is probably not very good if you play too long, so MMA is a much better sport.
LT: "The Dean of Mean," Keith Jardine, headlining Shark Fights, September 11 on pay-per-view, joins the show. This Matt Hamill fight, it was a weird fight You looked great early on. The staph infection - did you know he had a staph infection? Did that concern you at all?
KJ: No, I didn't know. Honestly, I've heard a lot of people making a big deal about that, I'm glad they didn't tell me 'cause that would just put something in your head. Because, the kind of guy I am, I would've done the fight anyways, so it wasn't much of a factor.
LT: Alright, and let me ask you about this Trevor Prangley fight. Trevor Prangley, we've talked about him, tough guy, limited with the hands relative to his other skill sets, great wrestler and decent ground-and-pound. This is probably gonna be a fight where, you know, you've faced a lot of wrestlers already in the UFC light-heavyweight division. I guess the first part is: where does he stack up relative to them? I know you said he could beat some of them, but do you think he could beat Hamill or Bader? And then the other question I guess I have is, you know, are you doing anything specific in the camp related to wrestling? I know you train everything all the time, but you know, you have to take away from that Tim Kennedy fight, maybe Trevor Prangley has some gas tank issues, maybe he's got some scrambling issues. What are you doing to prepare for Trevor Prangley on a specific level?
KJ: You know, believe it or not, not a whole lot. This is my third wrestler in a row and he's very similar to some of the guys I've fought. He's got very good boxing, but just nothing really special. He's just really almost boxing by the numbers, real orthodox, and he's a good wrestler. He just wants to find a clinch and take you down. And that's the third wrestler in a row I've fought, and he's not quite the caliber of the last two wrestlers I fought. The thing is, he might be a little bit better striker than Matt Hamill was, but I've been training with Rashad Evans, he's been in my camp since 2005, and nobody in MMA has found a way to put - besides Georges St-Pierre - has found a way to put striking and takedowns together quite like he has. So I've been dealing with him for a long time and being caught under a wrestler doesn't concern me in the slightest.
LT: Keith, one of the things I saw about you in one interview - I can't even remember when it was, I've seen so many at this point, it's hard to pinpoint - but that you were an avid reader, that you like going to San Jose-- not San Jose, excuse me, Santa Fe, New Mexico, at least. You like to... you're a big, avid reader. What's the last book you read, or what's the book you're currently reading?
KJ: I'm reading a geology book right now, I couldn't even tell you the name of it.
LT: Why geology? Is that a passion of yours?
KJ: It's starting to be! I've always been very loosely interested in it. I mean, you drive-- I ride motorcycles a lot. That's my thing - I love to ride motorcycles and find new roads and stuff. And so I'll be always looking at the mountains and the carvings and erosion and stuff like that, and wondering how cool it would be to know what era that came from or what kind of rock that is. And my grandpa was a miner, and he was a geologist, too. Actually, one of my sponsors gave me a big old geology book and I'm lovin' it. It's really cool. I might have to read it twice.
LT: Well, if you're in New Mexico that's certainly a good place to be invested in geology. Keith, for folks who wanna get in touch with you, fans who wanna learn more, can they get in touch with you on Facebook and Twitter?
KJ: Absolutely, Twitter - @KeithJardine205.
LT: And, of course, Keith Jardine headlining at the top of the card against Trevor Prangley, Shark Fights on pay-per-view, September 11. It's Shark Fights 13 at the Civic Center Coliseum, Amarillo, Texas.
KJ: Real quick, I'm real excited about it because they've put together a really exciting show with Joey Villasenor and all these UFC fighters, but it's gonna be like-- you can catch it on pay-per-view and it's not gonna be as much as the UFC fights. It's only gonna be 20-something dollars, I think, from what I understand.
LT: Yeah, I think it's $29.95.
KJ: Yeah, yeah, what an opportunity that is, and I'm very excited and honored to be a part of this show. It's almost a chance to give back to the fans a little bit with this.
LT: Well, Keith, I wish you best of luck against Trevor Prangley. Keith Jardine, again, Shark Fights 13, September 11. You can catch him on Twitter, you can catch him on Facebook. Best of luck to you at Shark Fights and I hope your career dreams come true. I think you're a great guy of the sport, you're a credit to it and I hope all the hard work pays off.
KJ: Thanks a lot, man. Take it easy.