There were a couple especially close fights at Bellator 120 in Memphis on Saturday night. One of them was the main event light heavyweight tournament final between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and King Mo Lawal.
The fight went all three rounds. When it was over, the judges awarded a unanimous decision to Rampage. Lawal, of course, was incensed.
He and Rampage got face to face in the cage after the fight, yelling about a rematch.
Their volley of words picked up again at the post-fight press conference, which provided for as much entertainment as their in-ring performance.
But at the end of the day, perhaps Rampage’s calls for a rematch had more to do with not wanting to fight current light heavyweight champion Emanuel Newton than it did with his desire to lay Lawal out in the cage.
Bellator’s format awards tournament winners a shot at the champion. Newton is the 205-pound champ, but he is also a sometime training partner with Rampage, plus the two share a coach and training partners.
“Emanuel and I both share the same coach, the great Antonio McKee. That guy is the secret to my success in addition to my coaches at the Wolfslair,” explained Rampage at the press conference. “But the fact of it is, Emanuel and I, we both share Antonio McKee. We train together sometimes.
“My other coaches live in England; my team is in England. So, after fights and stuff, I take a week off and then I go up to Antonio McKee's gym and I train with him, with the same sparring partners that Newton trains with, and we train together. So I don't know how that's gonna work.
“I don't know what's gonna happen to our gym. We're kind of like a family. People don't understand that when you train with somebody, you’re closer than brothers sometimes. So I don't know what's gonna happen.”
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney didn’t exactly seem to know what was going to happen with that situation either.
When asked if he was amenable to granting a rematch between Rampage and Lawal, Rebney was evasive with his answer.
“Talk about good problems to have,” he said. “They're talking rematch. We've got Emanuel Newton, who is a spectacularly talented 205er. That's what you look for. You look to build the kind of depth where you have a King Mo Lawal, you got a Rampage Jackson, you got a Tito Ortiz, and by the way, Emanuel Newton actually has the belt and has been beating people up.”
Rebney didn’t say yes or no to the rematch. But if Rampage and Lawal are to be taken at face value, they’d do the rematch at the drop of a hat.
But if they are granted an immediate rematch, where does that say about the Bellator format and what it means to win the tournament?