One of the fights Tito Ortiz was most looking forward to in Bellator was one against Quinton Jackson. From a business perspective, it might have been the biggest fight Bellator could have put on.
Now, it very likely will never happen. "Rampage" has somehow maneuvered out of his contract (Bellator disagrees) and jumped back to the UFC. Ortiz isn't exactly pleased from a selfish perspective, but he gets it.
"He made a business decision," Ortiz told MMAFighting.com on Sunday at the Los Angeles FitExpo where he was promoting his Punishment Athletics brand. "I was bummed. I wanted to fight against him. I guess in the long run, we're friends. It would have hurt our friendship. We're still really close friends. He has to pay his bills. I understand that. I guarantee the UFC paid a lot of money for him. I'm very happy for him. That's awesome."
Bellator contends that Jackson is still under contract with the organization. "Rampage" is saying he terminated the deal per the terms of the agreement after a 45-day window of a contract dispute closed. Bellator president Scott Coker said the situation is in the hands of the organization's lawyers. Jackson said Bellator and parent company Viacom didn't give him many of the things he was promised when he signed with then-president Bjorn Rebney.
Jackson has been booked to fight Fabio Maldonado at UFC 184 on April 25. It remains unclear whether Bellator will file an injunction to attempt to stop the fight from going on.
"I don't know what the loophole is," Ortiz said. "He's fighting in April so there must have been a big loophole they missed out on, the contract that was signed through Bjorn. Maybe there were some holes in it that [Rebney] didn't see, it was a mistake and the UFC attorneys are a lot smarter and they'll get out of it."
Ortiz and Jackson were supposed to fight in their respective Bellator debuts in November 2013, but the fight was scrapped when Ortiz was injured. Going their separate ways, both men had success in Bellator. "Rampage" was 3-0, the latest a unanimous decision win over Muhammed Lawal at Bellator 120 last May. Ortiz has won both of his fights in the organization and is coming off a unanimous decision win over fellow UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar at Bellator 131 on Nov. 15.
Ortiz said the 36-year-old Jackson's decision to head back to the UFC, the promotion he once bashed, was financial in nature.
"He would have made more money in the UFC than he would through Bellator right now," Ortiz said. "Not saying that Bellator is never gonna make that much money, but it's gonna take a couple years. The short term right now, that's what he's thinking about. He doesn't want to fight forever. He's getting old himself and his body has taken damage. People don't know what we go through, fighters every single day. Not even physically, but the mental torment from fans, everyone."
So, Ortiz, 40, isn't upset with his longtime friend for jumping ship. Plus, though Ortiz was hoping the fight between the two of them came together, Jackson most recently was not open to it publicly.
"I know 'Rampage' personally," Ortiz said. "I know he doesn't want to fight me. He's got another three or four fights in him and that's it."