Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson says it's not just about the money, that he feels disrespected by the UFC and their recent treatment of him, and that because of it, he wants out. To that I say, cut him loose.
Jackson certainly has been one of the UFC's best performers during his five-year run. He's the fighter that crumbled the Chuck Liddell era, unified the UFC and PRIDE belts and smashed Wanderlei Silva. He's been featured in the main event in eight of his 11 UFC appearances. For all of that, he deserves his place among the greats. But he doesn't want to be in the UFC any longer, and the UFC frankly doesn't need him.
If you think otherwise, you are mistaken. Would it be beneficial to have Jackson around in a healthy business relationship? Of course it would. But do they need him? No. Despite his success, he's replaceable, as is nearly everyone in nearly every industry. Building blocks like Liddell and Couture fade off, and time marches on. It would be the same with Jackson.
A divorce would be a win-win for both parties. UFC can move on and Jackson can call his own shots, knowing full well what he's getting himself into. He may say some outlandish things, but he's smart enough to know what's out there awaiting him, and there's not much. If that's the situation he'd rather face, things must be beyond redemption.
It's not about money, he says. As recently as UFC 130 -- three fights ago -- Jackson was all smiles, saying "I'm making a lot of money for this fight." In the time since, his profile hasn't declined, as he's had a title match with Jon Jones and a co-main event with Ryan Bader at UFC 144, an event in which he was spotlighted just as much as the main event fighters.
This latest episode started shortly after UFC 144, in a series of postings on Twitter, where Jackson insinuated that UFC stood for "u fight cheap," and that he would honor the last fight on his deal and then leave the organization.
On Monday's edition of "Inside MMA," Jackson took things a step further, asking for his immediate release during an interview with Bas Rutten.
"In my opinion they're trying to make me lose my fan base, because they don't want me to be bigger than the UFC," he said. "Because the [A-Team] movie I did was bigger than the UFC. I know what's going on. I'm going to let them have the UFC. I don't want to be part of the UFC anymore. If Dana doesn't want me to be bigger than the UFC, let me go."
This isn't his first blowup with the UFC, of course. Back in September 2009, he announced he was quitting due to conflicts with the promotion, mostly stemming from his decision to film The A-Team instead of facing Rashad Evans as had been planned. About two months later, he said he was coming back to "shut Rashad's mouth up and shut Dana's mouth up."
That fight was the beginning of his current 2-3 skid.
Jackson says he wants respect, but he is the same guy who said "I don't give a damn about the belt" when he was preparing to fight Liddell. Was that respectful to the organization promoting him in a championship match after only one win there?
Of course, that doesn't prove anything about the way the UFC has handled him behind the scenes, only that everyone has a different definition of respect. We do know that back in 2008, White flew from Las Vegas to Orange County, California to post bail for Jackson after a hit-and-run accident that led to a police chase. So there is some history of the UFC going above and beyond the contracted relationship to look out for him. You'd be hard-pressed to find other instances of pro sports league owners doing the same for one of their athletes.
Since that was over three years ago, it is possible that they've disrespected him in some real way that we don't know about. Although he didn't say it outright, Jackson seemed to suggest they were asking him to take a pay cut. While that isn't necessarily a disrespectful move -- financial decisions are often cruel in the sports world, just ask Peyton Manning -- it's easy to understand why he'd see it as such.
But some of his tangentially related comments make it clear there is more to the situation. He told Inside MMA that the UFC matchmaker Joe Silva "needs to be slapped in the face." Why?
"If you got a fighter like me who likes to go out and put on exciting fights, why are you going to keep giving me wrestlers who are going to take me down and hump me?" he asked, as if it was a rhetorical question.
Arguing that your matchups aren't favorable to your style aren't going to win you any sympathy. Remember that as recently as February 2011, he was offered a rematch with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, a striker who happened to be the division's light-heavyweight champion at the time. But Jackson had to turn down the short-notice but major opportunity because he was 250 pounds and felt he couldn't be ready by the necessary date. Is that missed chance for a matchup to his liking on him or the UFC?
Beyond that, if you look at the last three fights he's lost, the majority of the bouts have been fought standing. Against Ryan Bader, he spent 8:30 of the 15 minutes on his feet and lost. Against Jon Jones, he spent 14:45 of the 16:14 on his feet and lost. Against Rashad Evans, he spent 11:06 of the 15 minutes on his feet and lost. Those matchups may not have excited him, but he had his opportunities. He's always had them, in the form of championship bouts, No. 1 contender fights, and main events.
But that's all just factual stuff, and this is about feelings. As Jackson admitted during a recent, extended interview with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani, he's always been more sensitive than he lets on. Last week, Dana White spoke about this whole thing, saying that he thought Jackson was just taking the loss and corresponding criticism hard. But White had also talked to Jackson and thought the worst was behind them, and Jackson still feels the same way. Jackson has his mind made up, and it's not about money, it's about feelings. He wants out. It's time to say thanks for the UFC memories, and let him go.
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