Montel 'Quik' Jackson's unlikely journey from Milwaukee to the UFC
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Montel "Quik" Jackson grew up in some of the roughest parts of Milwaukee. Most of his friends are dead or in jail. Thankfully, Jackson took a different path -- one that led him to the UFC, on the verge of becoming a superstar. As CBS 58's Jessob Reisbeck found out, he's not leaving his city, or the kids like him, behind.
"I'll tell you exactly where I came from. I came from a place where a lot of people don't make it, but they want to," said Jackson.
Montel Jackson grew up on the north side of Milwaukee, near 91st and West Brown Deer.
"People felt like we're living to survive, not living to live. So, when you got people living out of desperation there isn't anything that they aren't willing to do to get to that next day," said Jackson.
"Next days" were hard to come by for a lot of people in Jackson's life. Most of his friends and family are either dead or locked up.
"It was pretty rough, but I believed in myself and let those good people around me guide me and it got me here," said Jackson.
Jackson is a rising start in the UFC, home to the best mixed martial artists in the world.
"I feel like I'm on the right path," Jackson said.
Jackson's path to become a prize fighter started in high school, his junior year at Riverside High School he got into some trouble, but the security guard made him a deal.
"'If you go out for a season of wrestling, I'll get rid of this referral for you,'" said Jackson.
Jackson did it, liked it, and kept wrestling.
"I started to believe...from there I started doing City Kids. I met Roger Quindel," Jackson said.
"I'm a volunteer. I don't need to get paid. I've never gotten paid. I get paid by watching kids grow up. Montel knew he was a special guy because he was highly disciplined. He wanted to do better," said Roger Quindel, Jackson's mentor.
Jackson went from City Kids Wrestling Club, a nonprofit in Milwaukee, to Olympic hopeful until wrestling got dropped from the competition in 2013. That's when he made the move to mixed martial arts.
"The sky is the limit," said Solo Acosta, Jackson's coach. "His potential is life changing."
Solo Acosta has been coaching Jackson since day one. The man they call "Quik" is now 13 and 2 as a pro, he's won his last four fights in the UFC, and he's primed to make a run at the 135 lb. title.
"We always say, 'The definition of greatness is when those before you become obsolete and those after you bear your mark.' And I think that's his limit, when everyone bears his mark," said Acosta.
For Jackson, that mark is about a lot more than just success in the octagon, he wants to leave his mark on the city of Milwaukee and the kids.
"There's an African American proverb that goes, 'The children that don't feel the warmth of a village, will return and burn it down.' So that's what we're seeing now. A lot of kids in the city of Milwaukee, people don't invest in them," Jackson said.
Jackson was one of those kids, but just as Roger Quindel and others invested in him, he wants to do the same for kids today.
"They don't value themselves and the majority of people in the city of Milwaukee, they don't value the youth. They just think of them as being trouble," said Jackson.
Remember it was trouble at Riverside High School that put Jackson on the path to where he is now.
"If you aren't sure about what you can do, look at me. I made it," said Jackson. "I'm coming from the same corners that you came off of."
"He found out that success is doable, and he did it. And it's on his path," said Quindel.
Jackson is ready and waiting for his next UFC fight. He's hopeful that it will be his first shot at one of the top 15 ranked fighters with the bantamweight world title in his sights.