Quinton "Rampage" Jackson made millions in his six-plus years in the UFC, but it appears his breaking point wasn't over money, but over Dana White being critical about him to reporters when he failed to make weight for his UFC 144 fight with Ryan Bader.
"He talked s*** about me not making weight," said Jackson on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani on Monday. "That's when I decided I was going to leave the UFC."
Jackson had over the next year insisted that when his contract was up, after his next fight (which ended up on Jan 26 in Chicago, a loss to Glover Teixeira), he was gone. He said that he didn't even consider the offer UFC made to sign him to a new deal, even though at the time, he had no idea the Bellator/Spike/TNA offer was coming.
"I knew I wasn't happy with UFC," he said. "I haven't been happy for a long time. I did a lot of smart investments, saved my money up, worked on rehabbing my knees. I knew I was going to get out of there. I knew I was going to bounce."
The one thing he seemed the most unhappy about was the UFC's change when it came to allowing sponsors, a subject other fighters have brought up as well. Unlike in the past when fighters were relatively free to get whatever sponsors they could, with some minor restrictions, now sponsors have to pay UFC a significant amount of money for the right to then sponsor fighters. Fighters have complained that it leaves less money in the sponsors' budgets to go to the fighters, and takes smaller companies that can't afford the so-called sponsor tax, out of the game.
"I'm in a lot better place," he said. "It's hard to explain. When you're sweating tears and they won't let you have sponsors, they tax the sponsors, you want to make a movie, "The A-Team," a lot of people were up for that role, I felt like I was trying to further my career. You can't fight forever. I took a lot of heat for that. The UFC didn't see the big picture. Bellator said, 'We'll get you movies. We'll get you sponsors. It's better for the brand and it's better for the sport."'
Still, Jackson had mixed emotions in hindsight about his decision to take "The A-Team" gig in late 2009, noting that UFC had scheduled a show in his home city of Memphis that was originally planned for his fight with Rashad Evans coming off the highest rated season ever of The Ultimate Fighter. He pulled out of the show when he got the B.A. Baracus role that Mr. T made iconic, in the movie. While UFC ran a successful event, UFC 107, headlined by B.J. Penn defending the lightweight title against Diego Sanchez, having Jackson headline would have made the Memphis debut significantly bigger.
Jackson noted that he doesn't think Dana White misses him not being in the company, even though Jackson, even after three straight losses, was still one of the bigger stars and most recognizable fighters on the roster.
"I doubt he'll miss me at all," said Jackson. "I think I was a thorn in UFC's side for awhile. I did everything to fix the relationship. I was wrong doing The A-Team movie and pulling out of the show in Memphis. I know I messed up for doing that. That's why I didn't pull out of that fight in Japan (February 26, 2012, against Ryan Bader) when I was injured. I thought I could beat Bader even with an injury."
While he doesn't have any exact timetable regarding when he's going to fight, other than it'll be before the end of this year, or when he's going to do pro wrestling, he's got a number of other things going on. He revealed he's looking at opening a bar. He's trying to pitch an MMA movie to Paramount, which he's written with a role he can star in. He's working on writing a second movie. And he has a reality show coming soon to Spike that was talked about last week when the deal was announced.
"If I do a reality show, it'll have to be a real reality show," he said. "I can't do a scripted reality show."
He noted that there may be things he'd do during a day for the reality show that he may not have done on those days, but he doesn't want anyone telling him what to do or say. While he wouldn't give a time frame on the show, which hasn't started filming yet. Spike had indicated the show would air in the weeks leading to his first fight.
"It'll promote my fights, but it's not like The Ultimate Fighter," he said. "We will have some training I'm sure, but a lot of other stuff. I'm not only a fighter. I have to train to be a pro wrestler, so it will have me learning how to hit the ropes and take the falls. My life is really like a reality show, you guys just don't know it."
As far as MMA goes, Jackson noted he's not in fight training, but has been in Mexico to get away from the Southern California scene, and some of his friends, who he called party animals. Instead, he's taken a few training partners across the border to sharpen up.
"I got me a place in Mexico, it's a two-hour drive, there's a nice MMA gym and a nice weight gym. Me and a couple of teammates, we go there and have a good time. I'm working on getting my Muay Thai back up to par, and wrestling and Jiu Jitsu and stuff."
Bellator has been a tournament style promotion. One of the big questions regarding where Jackson fits into that format. With all the mileage on his body and turning 35 in less than two weeks, the idea of fighting three times in three months as Bellator has done for most of its previous tournaments, doesn't seem like a good fit. Jackson seemed to think the same way, but hasn't closed to mind to a tournament.
"I don't know, I'm not looking forward to tournaments," he said when asked. "I don't think I'm doing tournaments. But I'm a team player. If they think having me do a tournament will help with ratings, I'll do a tournament."
While Jackson a few years back had talked about retiring at 35, he's now looking at going another two or three years.
"I wasn't happy with UFC. I was trying to hustle and do movies. UFC took the love of MMA out me. There's a lot I can't talk about because I signed a nondisclosure, but they took the love of MMA out of me."
Obviously a big part of the Jackson signing is an attempt to take one of UFC's better known stars, who has drawn big television ratings and a few monster pay-per-views, with the idea that he can get some of the much larger UFC fan base to check out Bellator.
When Helwani noted that there are a lot of fans who only will watch UFC, Jackson didn't disagree.
"I'm not going to convert those fans," he said. "If they're negative fans, or they're UFC sheep, they don't know the world of MMA."
Jackson's visibility on Spike TV has already started, with his appearance on TNA Impact wrestling on Thursday in Duluth, Ga. The promotion taped two television shows that night, the first, which aired on a two-hour tape delay, was him have an in-ring confrontation with 1996 Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medalist Kurt Angle.
The segment seemed to create some buzz within wrestling and was generally reviewed positively. It's far too early to see if Jackson's UFC popularity will bring in either MMA fans, or just people curious, to the wrestling company.
His second appearance, which airs this coming Thursday, opens up more questions as far as where his role is going, as he ended up saving Angle, who appeared to be his nemesis, from an attack late in the show.
Jackson grew up a wrestling fan in Memphis, where Saturday morning wrestling on the NBC affiliate with local superstar Jerry Lawler and iconic announcer Lance Russell, was almost a cultural institution, for years the most popular locally produced television show in the market. He's talked about going to the matches on Monday nights at the Mid-South Coliseum. But wrestling has changed greatly from the 80s, and he hasn't watched it in years and is just starting to catch up.
"I don't know a lot about that world," he said. "I used to watch that as a kid before I got into MMA. That's why I used to do all those slams before I got addicted to knocking people out. I haven't watched it in a couple of years. From what I heard, the fans liked it (his first segment with Angle). Now I have to get used to people telling me what to do. TNA is kind of crazy. They tell me to do an interview, Kurt Angle interrupted my interview. I didn't know:"
While the idea Jackson wasn't aware Angle was coming out to confront him is difficult to take seriously, it is likely true that nobody exactly knows where his role is going because they don't know his learning curve, how fans will react long-term, or anything else.
But Jackson did get a chance to meet a childhood hero in Hulk Hogan, who at 59, is still the face of that organization.
He said he didn't act like a fan boy to Hogan, because of his own experience meeting fans.
"If a fan is cool, I'm cool with him," he said. "A fan could turn into a friend. But some people act super weird, and they make it uncomfortable for you. All you want to do is get out of there. What I learned from that experience is to be yourself. . . Hogan's cool, he gave me a few pointers backstage. I didn't act like a fan, but I was star struck."
Like with fighting, there's no real timetable on his pro wrestling. What he has said is you won't be seeing him doing some of the high flying moves that a lot of pro wrestlers do.
"I'm sure I'll beat up my body, it's the same thing people told me about MMA," he said. "I don't plan on being one of those pro wrestlers doing all that crazy stuff. I'm coming into the game with a few injuries. I'm just looking to entertain everybody. I am different from other stuff. I can't do all that high flying."
As far as when and what he's doing next, he said they haven't told him.
"Everything is brand new, they haven't told me anything," he said. "They don't know. They think I might learn it faster because I grew up watching it and pretending to be a pro wrestler as a kid, watching it for 17 years. Maybe I'll get it faster than others, or maybe not."
While some of fighters, most notably Bellator's former top star, Eddie Alvarez, have negative things to say about Bellator, Jackson said that to him, of all the promoters he's worked for in a 13-and-a-half year career, he said that only Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, and Terry Trebilcock, who ran King of the Cage when Jackson was starting his career, "get it."
"Bjorn said, 'Look, what kind of sponsors do you want me to go after,' He's already asking questions like that. UFC never did that."
"I'm confident, but who knows," he said regarding the negative issues fighters have had with Bellator. "There's two sides to every story. I can just tell you from my experience. I can only tell you how they treat me, not how they treat others. There are two sides."