“The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine (27-11-2, MMA) spent eleven years inside the cage, giving fans the definition of what a true warrior is in all of his 30 fights. Now at 37-years-old, Jardine has been busy in the past year, having fought twice in Strikeforce, training and supporting his fiance who fights in Invicta FC, and appearing on TV shows like Hawaii 5.0, Breaking Bad and even Nickelodeon. When Keith was a guest of MMA Fight Corner recently, he disclosed to the crew that his fighting career may be nearing an end.
The career Jardine had in the cage wasn’t always rewarding. Jardine even spoke about to our show over a year ago explaining that he hadn’t been paid from a smaller promotion after a fight. Needless to say the chiseled veteran has seen it all. Before competing at heavyweight in season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter, Jardine had racked up a pro record of (9-1-1, MMA). Future Jackson-Winklejohn MMA teammate Rashad Evans took a unanimous decision home over Jardine in TUF in the semi-final, eliminating him from the competition.
However, Keith was able to fight in the TUF finale where he brought home a TKO victory over Kerry Schall and his UFC career began. Upon signing with the promotion, Keith dropped down to the 205-lb division in which he fought the majority of his career. He went 6-7 with the UFC and was cut in 2010 following 4 consecutive losses to Rampage Jackson, Thiago Silva, Ryan Bader, and Matt Hamill respectively. Despite turning in two Fight of the Night performances in his last four fights, his tenacity wasn’t enough to keep him in the Octagon.
Jardine kept grinding with a few small regional promotions after the cut and eventually landed in Strikeforce where he most recently fought. In January 2012, Jardine faced Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold for the title and lost late in the first round by TKO. It was also Jardine’s first fight at middleweight, a decision he now regrets. With Strikeforce, Jardine was 0-2 at middleweight.
Now that Strikeforce has folded, Jardine has kept busy taking on acting as his latest challenge. His first movie was a YouTube feature called “Enter the Dojo” where Keith appears in season 2, episode 4 of the series. Since doing that first role for free and for fun, the footage has been what’s gotten him in the door for auditions. With acting being his latest venture, Keith said that he wants to start from the ground up, just as anyone else would, and isn’t using his MMA fighting fame to land roles.
“Doing audition’s that really something. I’m going the real route. I’m not just doing things I get picked for ‘Hey we want Keith in this’,” Jardine explained. “I’m showing up with my lines, my sides and there’s a hallway of people that their job, their livelihood depends on getting this role.”
Even if the roles aren’t taking a physical toll on Keith, he said mentally there are a lot of similarities to prepping for a fight. “Your head gets so quiet, you can hear your own voice,” Jardine said.
“It’s almost the same way, almost the same, warming up in the locker room.You’re up, you got your gameplan, you got whatever you got to do, you got the lines just perfectly before you get in there.”
Of course his blossoming acting career may turn out to be pretty rewarding. But is it enough to get “The Dean of Mean” to call his MMA career quits?
“A lot of people have been pushing me to retire, I’ve been a shell of myself these last couple years. I’ve been saying I’m definitely on the shelf, I’m semi-retired, I’m definitely on the shelf right now,” Keith said. “I’ve just been looking at my health and my fitness. I’ve been doing this Bulletproof stuff,” Jardine said of learning now about properly caring for his body. “My nutrition was just backwards, my working out was backwards, I was a zombie walking around for the last two years.
“So that’s my approach right now is I’m trying to get myself healthy. And then once I feel like I’m ready to go out and to perform at a level I want to and shock the world, I want to do it. I got to do it again. I don’t care if I win or lose, but I just want to go out there and perform and be Keith Jardine which I haven’t been in the last couple of years. When I dropped to middleweight it was a disaster, it was stupid. It made everything worse. It magnified all of my health issues that I was dealing with.”
In addition to kicking off an acting career, Keith’s started his own fitness studio called TRX Fitness Studio in Albuquerque, NM. In addition to workouts, TRX training focuses on teaching others how to properly nutrition themselves. As Keith recalled of his early career, he wasn’t the best at maintaining his body in its prime.
“One thing with fighters though and I’m sure that is going to hold true with everybody, I was so stupid back then. I remember I fought Houston Alexander and I got caught in that fight. Well, I was back in the gym the exact following week helping Rashad train and I was just getting hit in the back of the head and I was like ‘whoa, this doesn’t feel quite right’. I knew I wasn’t quite right, but nobody was telling me not to. It was like ‘Hey look at Keith, he’s doing a good job, he’s the hardest worker in the gym. He’s in there training’. I was like no, someone needed to send me home.”
Not one to dwell on or regret the journey that past experiences have provided him with, Keith said having spent more than the last decade as an MMA fighter was all worth the ride. But if he could apply the knowledge he has now to how he handled his health and body back then, he may have changed some things in the interest of maintaining himself physically. “I’ve learned so much, but if it happened to me now, I’d do it a lot different.”