Quinton Jackson's departure from Bellator and sudden signing with the UFC has been the big story of the last week.
Bellator president Scott Coker has contested the acquisition, stating that "Rampage" is still under contract with Bellator. Coker told MMA Fighting this past week that the situation has been passed off to Bellator's lawyers.
In this exclusive statement to MMA Fighting, Jackson's manager Lee Gwynn, the owner and manager of Wolfslair Promotions, lays out the reasons why "Rampage" became fed up with Bellator and decided to leave the organization and head back to the UFC:
There are a lot of rumors over what has happened with the Bellator split, so I would like to give the key points to the dispute to avoid confusion. Quinton Jackson ended his contract with the UFC at the beginning of 2013 with the Glover [Teixeira] fight. We then entered into negotiations with several promotions one of them being Bellator under Bjorn Rebney. Bellator was a fairly new Viacom entity and Bjorn used this position to attempt to construct a very interesting and lucrative deal. Bjorn included in the deal a Bellator contract, a Paramount movie deal, a Spike TV reality show provision and a TNA pro wrestling contract. This in effect created an entertainment contract instead of the normal fight contract. In hindsight I think that Bjorn was over zealous with the Viacom networks' assistance he could rely on. Bjorn also submitted a significant pay-per-view model that was crucial to the deal.
The first nine months was fraught with multiple problems but we considered them to be startup issues in a new way of doing business. The Tito Ortiz fight was cancelled and Bjorn persuaded us to enter into a tournament to promote the King Mo fight, culminating in a PPV fight with King Mo. The PPV was not successful for our payment structure and we immediately informed Bjorn that the problems had grown too many and that we wished to restructure our position. Bjorn was removed as CEO within two weeks of this position. We were expecting a meeting on the Wednesday with him. On the Tuesday morning we found out in the press that he was gone.
Scott Coker took over the company and attempted many times to resolve the problems and simplify the contractual situation. Scott just focused on Quinton fighting and getting him paid well for it. Scott couldn't rebuild the trust in the company as too much had taken place, and Quinton had lost too much time waiting for these hollow promises. Over a period of four months we have been bouncing between Scott trying to make things happy, and Viacom legal failing to resolve the many impossible breaches promised by Rebney. The one decent part of the entertainment contract was a provision to terminate if breaches cannot be resolved. We were obliged to give a 45-day notice listing the breaches. At the end of the period the contract allows us to terminate in writing to Bellator/Viacom. During this process, Scott Coker attempted to resolve the issues but was unsuccessful. We actually gave Bellator/Viacom 70 days in total. At the end we terminated in writing and informed all parties that we would now be seeking promotional opportunities as a free agent.
The UFC was spoken to and indicated an interest in doing business. They were very careful in reviewing our legal position. Our law firm, the UFC lawyers and an outside law firm all agreed that the termination was legitimate. I know Quinton's announcement came as a surprise to the fans and it may have looked like this thing happened quickly. The opposite is true. This dispute has been running since June 2014. The final termination process took 70 days to finalize.
We are very happy to be back in the UFC and expect some great fan-favorite matchups. These will be revealed as always by the UFC. However we expect to be fighting in late March/April.
Scott Coker has indicated that a legal position may be taken by Viacom in relation to this but to [paraphrase] him from a recent interview, 'This all begins by Bjorn Rebney giving Quinton a very crazy contract, he would have promised Quinton anything he wanted to get him for the show.' Scott is being honest here and we believe that once the entire thing is reviewed by Viacom that common sense will prevail.