COMMENTARY | In a week with not much fight news, Bellator's signing of former UFC and Pride standout Quinton "Rampage" Jackson dominated the headlines and comment sections throughout the MMA Internet world. To be more specific, Jackson has a unique deal that goes beyond King Mo's ground breaker that permitted the former Strikeforce champ to compete in Bellator and Viacom's wrestling property, TNA.
Jackson will have a similarly structured deal, competing in Bellator and TNA. An additional provision of the deal provides for the always charismatic "Rampage" to appear in his own reality series. That may be the best part of the deal. The rest of it is a train wreck waiting to happen.
Having Jackson under the Bellator umbrella may be a temporary ratings boom for the world's second best-known MMA promotion. Outside of name recognition, there are few upsides to having "Rampage" in the organization.
First, there's the obvious. Jackson is a shell of the fighter he used to be. At 34-years of age, the former UFC light heavyweight champion ended his Octagon run on a three fight losing skid. Even going back to some of the fights he won don't paint a pretty picture for the man who always threatens to drop bombs via his one punch knockout power on his opponents (more on that later).
Jackson's last victory was a lackluster unanimous decision win over a last-minute replacement in Matt Hamill at UFC 130. Jackson was reduced to chasing Hamill around the ring trying to land the one hitter quitter to add to his highlight reel. To be fair, Hamill was just as much, if not more, responsible for that awful performance as Jackson was. At UFC 123, Jackson earned a razor thin split decision victory over the always puzzling Lyoto Machida. To be fair to Jackson, Machida managed to make a Dan Henderson fight the worst thing going when the two squared off at UFC 157, so the Tennessee native can't be blamed too much for that. "Rampage" was outwrestled by Rashad Evans at UFC 114 in a bout that had more hype than delivery, failed to put away Keith Jardine and at UFC 96 and last finished a fight at UFC 92, knocking out Wanderlei Silva.
This is not the track record of a franchise fighter.
Bellator built its model on being the anti-UFC, as Yahoo!'s Kevin Iole noted last year: "The biggest thing Rebney did correctly, other than convincing a powerful and well-heeled company like Viacom to invest in his modest little start-up, was to not try to be the UFC.
"Though the essence of both is that they promote mixed martial arts fight cards, Rebney came up with a tournament format that he believed in from the beginning and has refused to abandon. Even more significantly, though, is that Bellator did not try to sign a slew of former UFC fighters to build its roster."
While there are traces of the UFC in Bellator, and most organizations, the signing of Jackson flies in the face of the idea that UFC cast offs aren't welcome.
And then there's the matchmaking dilemma. Whether Jackson takes fights at light heavyweight or heavyweight, if he tears through Bellator's competition, what does that say about Bellator's 205-pound and heavyweight division? Yes, Jackson still has something left in the tank, but if he comes out and crushes everything in his path, Bellator's heavier weight classes will be MMA's version of WWE jobbers.
The other problem with Jackson is that he's always a promoter's best friend… until he isn't anymore.
After a stellar start with the UFC, the final chapter on his relationship with Zuffa brass was anything but cordial. In the run up to his final bout, UFC President Dana White seemed more puzzled about the turn of events with Jackson than anything else.
"When he's the fun-loving, hysterical guy, he is a joy to promote and people love him," White said in January. "We've given him everything he's wanted. He wanted to make big money in the UFC and he's made millions and millions of dollars. He had a dream to do a big movie and he did the A-Team. He's complaining about matchmaking, but we're not doing anything differently with him. We're putting him against all of the top guys.
"The way we think is, we want to be in business with people who want to be in business with us. Rampage is a complicated guy and you don't know where you're at with him on any given day. Anything is possible, but I don't know where Rampage's head is at and Viacom [the parent company of Bellator] is sitting on $5 billion cash. If they want to pay him a ton of money, they can."
That seems to be what Viacom has done. Whether that proves to be a sound fiscal decision remains to be seen. Given Jackson's track record in and out of the cage, the Jackson/Bellator train may be on a track headed toward a brick wall.
Anthony Springer Jr. has been covering MMA since 2008. His work has appeared in Ultimate MMA and Fight! Magazines and on TheWellVersed.com, FightNews.com and HipHopDX.com. He makes his home in Las Vegas. Follow him on Twitter @SimplyAnthony
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