by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
On a blistery Chicago day earlier this week, UFC fighter Quinton Rampage Jackson was wrapping up a training session with his group of coaches in the boxing ring. The 34-year-old Jackson danced around the canvas, hitting the pads held by his sparring partner with such force that those watching from outside the ring considered putting up guard to protect themselves from the 6-1, 205 pound hulking individual. During breaks, Jackson was talkative; cracking jokes and teasing spectators while making the whole room burst out in laughter on more than one occasion. But when the buzzer sounded, it was right back to work—left jabs and right hooks as the “pop” from the pads echoed throughout the facility.
Saturday, Rampage Jackson will be taking on Glover Teixera in his last contract-binding fight with the UFC. For a man with what has been called the “biggest fight of his life” looming, he is remarkably loose. Despite his nonchalant manner, you only have to take one look at Rampage to know that he is fully focused on the possibility that this may very well be the last fight of his illustrious MMA career. Jackson, who has made a living by being in peak physical condition, is in the best shape of his fighting life and ready to bring the ruckus in the octagon one last time under the UFC banner. The Memphis, TN native claims that he doesn’t care much about his legacy but coming off of two straight losses, I have a sneaking suspicion that he would love nothing more than to remind everyone watching that he is one of the best to ever do it in the mixed martial arts world.
By now, you (as I did) are probably asking yourself why a writer for a basketball magazine would be flown to the Windy City, corralled into a van and dropped off at an MMA training facility miles away from the heart of downtown Chicago. The answer: Reebok’s newest training shoe, ATV19+, endorsed by Rampage Jackson and set to drop February 1 for $140. Featuring a funky, innovative design, ATV19+ will undoubtedly be the most unique looking sneaker on the market when it’s released. But the look isn’t just for show, there is a functionality behind the design that makes sense for both the hardcore runner and the casual trainer who is looking for a break from the monotony of running on the treadmill or around the track.
Inspired by the tire geometry of All-Terrain Vehicles, ATV 19+ features 19 irregular lugs designed to rip mud, snow, sand and grass out of the way. ATV19+ technology works to grab the most terrain possible with each step, for optimal running on all surfaces. In addition, ATV 19+ features rugged synthetic toe and heel overlays for durability and abrasion resistance, a padded tongue and collar for supportive comfort and fit for all-terrain challenges, and a full-height silhouette for all-terrain agility, traction and maximum ground contact on varied surfaces. Along with the colorway featured above, the shoe will also be released in flat grey/black/acid green and red/solar green/white.
Basically, the shoe is designed to handle everything you can possibly throw at it–which makes Rampage the perfect spokesperson considering no one trains harder than him (so he claims).
After going through a light workout and hopping in the ring for a light sparring session myself, I sat down with Rampage and Reebok’s Head of Advanced Innovation, Bill McInnis to talk ATV19+, Reebok, Rampage’s career and everything in between.
Here are a few highlights….
On ATV19+ Design and Functionality…
McInnis: “The thing that jumps out at you right away is the outsole with the giant lugs. The scale at the bottom of the shoe is different than what anyone else has done out there to date. It’s patterned after the knobby tires that are found on an ATV or a motocross bike. The purpose of that is to dig into a surface and shed that surface as well. A regular trail shoe is good as long as you’re on a well-trodden trail. They’ll sink in a little bit but you need bigger lugs when going through mud, sand and snow.
“They look so unusual and people have certain expectations of how they’re going to feel but they actually feel very balanced when you put them on. The idea is you run or stand along the center line of pods and the ones on either side function like training wheels so their constantly touching and engaging with whichever way you’re foot is moving. When you make a turn, you lean into that turn since you have a 28-degree angle up in the front and heel. It’s almost like a velodrome cyclist when they make turns, these shoes act the same way.
“The idea is to think differently and get inspiration from different places. Everyone knows what a running shoe is supposed to look like, they’ve looked the same for years and years and years. If you keep referencing running shoes and doing your version of that next one, it’s still going to look the same. To innovate and take things to the next level, you really have to look outside your field to the way other things are being done and for us it was that ATV look.”
Rampage: “When I first looked at it, I thought, What am I gonna be doing, running on the moon? Surprisingly enough, this design is really, really comfortable. I’ve been running in these shoes for like three months now and have no complaints about it. It took my running to a whole ‘nother level. I hate running! I have a short attention span and I hate running because it’s mundane. You’re running on a treadmill or on the streets and you gotta stop at the lights. With these shoes, you can go anywhere!”
“I wanted to test these shoes out and prove them wrong but I couldn’t. I was running over rocks and logs and in mud, up dirt hills, it doesn’t bother me. It made my cardio much better by doing what I want to do…I wanted to see what these shoes couldn’t do, that’s the type of person I am, I’m a fighter at everything. I haven’t found one thing these shoes can’t do yet.”
On the partnership between Rampage and Reebok…
McInnis: “You’ve seen him today and what we’re going to do with him…The look of him, the spirit of him, the way he comes across, the way he can talk about the way he trains and what he trains in, he’s a phenomenal asset to pair up with. ATV and Rampage make sense; they’re both an unstoppable force.”
Rampage: “I was sitting there thinking the other day,’Wow, Reebok wants me?! I never really had a whole lot of sponsors and I was wondering why sponsors weren’t attracted to me. Now that I’ve gotten older and cleaned up my image, I’ve noticed a lot of younger people are looking up to me. I’m trying to be a better role model…I’m not perfect, no human being is, but I’m trying to be a better role model. When I started fighting, I just did it to pay the bills, the last thing I thought was that kids would be watching me. A couple of years ago, a kid came up to me and cited an interview that I did a long time ago that was very vulgar and I realized I had to watch what I was saying in the public eye. I think that’s what kept a lot of big sponsors and companies away from me. Even though I was exciting, you never knew what you were going to get. Now I’m more mature and a more positive person and I try my best to be a role model.”
On being a family man…
Rampage: “I got four kids, man and if you count my dad, I got five kids! I love my family and I don’t get to spend a lot of time with them because my job is so demanding. I miss them a lot so they’re on my mind a lot. I’m crazy about my kids. When you have kids, man, the world changes…This is my career, this is my job, this is how I pay for their piano lessons, Japanese lessons, soccer practices…everything they want to do, this is how I get that done. That’s all I care about, that’s how I get it done.”
On being the most versatile UFC fighter ever…
Rampage: “I do think that I bring a lot more to the table than other fighters bring. I feel like a lot of fighters, they’re too wrapped up in their own egos and how tough they are. Fighters are really cool people, but they get in front of the camera or in front of the media and they act like they’re super tough and I don’t understand that. I just be myself. I like entertaining people, I like doing movies, I like working with brands like Reebok. I like fighting and slamming people and knocking people out. A lot of fighters do movies now and it’s good for the MMA world but I just feel like nobody does it like me and I stand out more than other people.”
Be sure to tune in to Fox on Saturday night to watch Rampage take on Glover Teixera and be on the lookout for Reebok’s ATV19+ next week!