The following interview with Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine was conducted by Luis Cruz for MMANews.com on Wednesday, October 11, 2006.
MMANews.com: This is Luis Cruz from MMANews.com. I'm joined now by “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine. Keith, what's going on?
Keith Jardine: Nothing much man, just losing weight.
MMANews.com: Where are you at right now?
Keith Jardine: I'm in at about 218 [lbs.]
MMANews.com: Is that higher than you usually are this close to fight time?
Keith Jardine: Nah, that's about normal. We'll see.
MMANews.com: So how are you feeling and how did training go for this fight?
Keith Jardine: Great. It's been awesome man because it was one of my hardest camps. I started earlier than usual helping Rashad [Evans] train for his fight and then a fighter [couldn't catch the name] had his yesterday, and he won and I was helping him train the whole time. We had a pretty awesome camp for the past – about – two months.
MMANews.com: So you train with Rashad regularly?
Keith Jardine: Oh yeah, he's part of our team now. He comes to Albuquerque about two months before his fight and he pretty much lives there.
MMANews.com: I'm going to rewind a little bit and go back to your last fight with [Wilson] Gouveia. That was a great fight, very entertaining. You showed a lot of heart and great leg kicks and just all around skill. Was there any point in that match that you were concerned you were in trouble?
Keith Jardine: Yeah, I think man. Absolutely. That first round I came into that fight pretty injured and in the first few seconds he kicked the bad knee that was giving me trouble and popped it out. I pretty much fought the rest of that fight one-legged. It took me a long time to figure him out because of his speed and everything and I couldn't catch up with him. He was a pretty good fighter, man. That first round was rough. Then I started to figure him out and I started to take over by fighting flat-footed.
MMANews.com: You were hobbling around there [laughs] and definitely showed a lot of heart. That fight could have been stopped in the first round, but you hung in there and did a complete one-eighty to turn that fight around.
Keith Jardine: Yeah, thanks man. When you're a fighter now up and coming and you're in the UFC you want to stay in the UFC. Every fight then is the fight of your life, there's never an easy fight. Even this fight against [Mike] Nickels on paper should be an easy fight, but I'm not going to take it that way.
MMANews.com: Speaking of the Light Heavyweight division, you had a close fight with Stephan Bonnar as well. Where do you rank yourself in the UFC's current Light Heavyweight division?
Keith Jardine: I rank myself real high. I think any single person in the division I can compete with and have a good fight with and I don't think there's anyone I can't match up well with. So yeah, I think I'm as good as anybody in the division.
MMANews.com: Like who would you put yourself behind and in front of?
Keith Jardine: I don't even think that way. I think there's a big group of us all about the same trying to get to the top two or three contender spots. Right now I guess it would go to Forrest [Griffin], Tito [Ortiz], and I think Rashad [Evans] after his fight.
MMANews.com: Since Rashad is now in your training camp, would you still agree to fight him?
Keith Jardine: Nah. Heck no. We fight everyday pretty much, so [laughs]. He's one of my best friends right now and he's part of our camp and we don't fight anyone in the camp. We just try and make each other better right now.
MMANews.com: So basically if one of you wins the title the other is the gate-keeper to that champion?
Keith Jardine: Well, if Rashad won the title I'd probably go back to Heavyweight.
MMANews.com: What do you think about Rashad how he's been doing since the show. Obviously he's improved a lot since the show, where do you see him in the division right now?
Keith Jardine: I'll put him as a contender, right now I'd put him at [pauses] I'll put him top-three, how's that? MMA is weird man, match-ups make fights. Rashad will do better against some people than other people. What helps him is he has incredible stamina and heart and continues to improve with each fight.
MMANews.com: How do you feel about a match with you against Chuck [Liddell] or Rashad against Chuck. Do you see anybody as a major threat to Chuck's title right now or do you think that will take more time?
Keith Jardine: Looking at it, I can't say that anybody is a major threat to Chuck the way he's dealt with everybody. Certainly not Tito [Ortiz] and I don't think anyone else is. You seen the way Chuck fought Tito last time, he still keeps getting better and better. I do think with my style, with my fighting style it would be an interesting match up.
MMANews.com: Do you think you'd be ready to go with him [Chuck Liddell] in a few months or is that still a year or two away with more time to really be ready with higher competition for yourself first?
Keith Jardine: Yeah, I don't know if anybody is talking about that yet [laughs] but yeah, I would love for that to happen. But, like I said, I don't hear anybody talking about that.
MMANews.com: Oh eventually they'll be talking about that if things go your way.
Keith Jardine: Definitely, that's the game plan man.
MMANews.com: Alright, let's focus on your fight now with Mike Nickels. What was your main focus during training for this guy?
Keith Jardine: You know, honestly I haven't really focused on Mike very much. I've just been focusing on myself, fixing a few of my weaknesses and my shortcomings to make myself a better all-around fighter. For this camp there was no real strategy for Mike. I honestly think I could beat him from my back, I think I can beat him on top, and I think I can beat him standing.
MMANews.com: So you don't train specifically for one fighter you train the same for each fight?
Keith Jardine: Well, no. I'll still develop a game plan. Like with Mike Whitehead I worked with really good wrestlers. It's the wrestlers you really have to develop game plans for with the takedowns and how they're going to get you.
MMANews.com: Is there anything you've seen in Mike's game that might concern you?
Keith Jardine: Well it's MMA so anything can happen. He's tall and he'll have some reach on me. I guess he has good knees and I heard he can take good punches. His jiu-jitsu is supposed to be good. I just can't be sloppy I have to fight a clean-smart fight.
MMANews.com: You said he has a little stand up and some jiu-jitsu, where would you prefer this fight to go, I assume standing?
Keith Jardine: Oh, like always you know it.
MMANews.com: Coming off fights with Bonnar and Gouveia, do you feel this might be a little bit of a step backwards for you?
Keith Jardine: That was my first thought when I got the call. I was kind of let down. I don't mean any disrespect, but I wanted to fight a contender but nah it's a chance to come back from this injury that I had against Wilson [Gouveia]. It's a chance for me to polish up a little bit and put myself on the right track. I haven't finished a fight since I was a Heavyweight so I definitely want to try to finish this fight and get on that track.
MMANews.com: What goes through your mind leading up to one of your fights? The weeks, the days, the hours. What goes on in your head, what do you do to prepare mentally for this game?
Keith Jardine: Mentally I just try to remember what I've done. Try to remember who I am and who I trained with. And that's the big thing my camp and who I train with. I train with one of the biggest camps in the world that has some of the best fighters in the world. Real contenders Nate Marquardt, Rashad Evans, Diego [Sanchez] and so forth. So, yeah I just think I go to wars with those guys every single day, this fight on Saturday isn't that big a deal compared to my training.
MMANews.com: Any pre-fight rituals to get in a zone or whatever?
Keith Jardine: Nah, I try to stay real calm and relax. I try and not get into too many rituals because one thing about the fight game is when you're back there ready to fight and you're doing all that at one point you hear “you're on in thirty minutes” and when you're done you hear “you're on in ten minutes” and you think to yourself “what?!” [laughs]. So it's good not to have too many rituals. Just go there, get your luggage unpacked and get ready for business no matter who you're fighting whether it's Chuck, or anyone.
MMANews.com: Now what can fans expect in this fight?
Keith Jardine: Hopefully my striking and fighting is a lot more crisp and cleaner than my last fight. I hope they expect another real exciting fight that ends with me winning in the first or second round.
MMANews.com: Alright if you come out of this with a win what do you hope is next for you?
Keith Jardine: You know actually I was thinking about that today and yesterday. I hope I get a good contender and someone that will set me on the path towards the top.
MMANews.com: Maybe like a top three fighter?
Keith Jardine: Of course, absolutely.
MMANews.com: Some people say I'm not ready, I want a couple more fights before I step up and some are like you, as soon as it's offered they take it.
Keith Jardine: Yeah, absolutely I'm always ready. I rise to my opponent, you know?
MMANews.com: Before I let you go is there anything you want to say to your fans any sponsors you want to mention?
Keith Jardine: Yeah, definitely. Everyday fans come up to me and talk about stuff like the Bonnar fight telling me I won. Every single day I still get that. Sponsors is just TapouT and my website.
MMANews.com: Alright Keith, thanks for the time. We hope to get you on the radio show once it's back and running again for a live interview with myself and Seth [Petruzelli, MMANews.com radio co-host]
Keith Jardine: Yeah, that sounds cool. Also before I go I just want to say again about wrestlers who just want to take you down and throw the ocassional elbow. Seth's a real well rounded fighter and it kind of broke my heart to see the fight reduced to that.
MMANews.com: Mine too. I talked to him today and he's already talking to UFC trying to get the next fight lined up.
Keith Jardine: I certainly thinked he showed well enough to warrant another fight.
MMANews.com: Absolutely, and let's hope they give him that as soon as he's medically cleared.
Keith Jardine: Yeah, definitely.
MMANews.com: Alright Keith, thanks again for taking the time out for us.
Keith Jardine: Thank you, man.