Coming back to Bellator isn't all bad it seems.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson has had an interesting go of things the last couple of years. In 2013, Rampage left the UFC for the greener pastures of Bellator MMA citing disagreements with Zuffa over sponsorship and career autonomy; however, after only a year with Bellator Rampage declared he was unhappy with the company and made his intent to return to the UFC known, claiming that Bellator violated their contractual agreement with him thus giving them no rights over him. A legal battle ensued resulting in Rampage fighting once more in the UFC before now returning to the Bellator cage this June to face Olympic gold medal winning judoka Satoshi Ishii. Ahead of his fight with Ishii, Rampage spoke with media about his return to Bellator and the circumstances that dictated his return.
"You know, I'm not my own manager. I did my job. My job is to fight and entertain people. I'm not my own manager so it's kinda tough sometimes when things don't go according to what you've been told in the past. But it looks like Bellator got rid of the bad apple, and they've got a new apple in there so everything is all brand new to me."
The bad "apple" Rampage is referring to is Bellator president and founder Bjorn Rebney. During Rampage's separation from Bellator, he maintained that Rebney did not fulfill his contractual obligations by failing to provide Rampage with a PPV. With Coker at the helm, it appears Rampage is ready to try again with the company. And while Rampage admits that the ubiquity of the UFC brand is a hindrance, Bellator is able to provide some incentives that are no longer available at the UFC.
"The problem with MMA right now is that most people think that MMA is called UFC. I know on my social media when I tag I'm fighting in Bellator people are like, ‘Why are you going to Bellator? Why are you going to Bellator?' Nothing against UFC because I've had my differences with UFC. They're a great company but I would say some people's dream is to go to the UFC but it's not everybody's dream. I like the UFC, I like Bellator. I don't have to wear Reebok. I'm happy that I'm not forced to wear a clothing brand that's not really a good fit for me. So that's one benefit to being in Bellator versus being in UFC."
In an ironic twist, Rampage was one of the first fighters Reebok sponsored in the UFC and part of his desire to leave the promotion originally was because the UFC would not allow him to wear Reebok gear to the cage. Now, Reebok and the UFC have entered into their much maligned exclusive partnership which has become a hot button issue in the MMA world. For a veteran like Rampage, who has a tremendous amount of name recognition, the inability to pursue what he calls "free money" from sponsors is a major detriment to signing with the UFC. But he also recognizes that younger fighters don't have the same incentives he does.
"But like I said, right now all the new fighters you can tell they're just fans coming in to fight. They're fans so they don't know any better. That's their dream. The UFC's been around longer than Bellator so that's probably their dream to go to the UFC. So if that's their dream to go to the UFC and to wear Reebok to make the UFC more money then go ahead. Whatever makes you happy."
And what makes Rampage happy is fighting. Previously, Rampage has stated a desire to retire at 35; he will be 3 years past that mark in less than 2 weeks. He recognizes that he is now fighting well past when he thought he would retire but says it's because of his love for the sport.
"I've always said a long time ago that I want to retire at 35, and hell I'll be 38 in a couple of weeks, so it's kinda like ‘wow!' But I figure I love this sport so much I might as well keep doing it as long as I can. I'm not in any hurry or stuff like that. I've learned since I've gotten older, I train a little different. I'm training smarter, being more relaxed...It's totally different from training I used to do back in the day. It seems like things are coming to me a little bit more naturally to me now and I'm getting better in all different places."
His training isn't the only thing changing. Rampage says light heavyweight may be a thing of the past for him.
"I'm really thinking about going to heavyweight because I am tired of cutting weight. I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm getting older now and the weight don't come off as easily as it used to."
A move to heavyweight could open up some interesting opportunities for Rampage who also expressed a sincere interest in returning to fight in Japan, possibly through some co-promotion between Rizin and Bellator. If this were to come to pass one would have to think Fedor Emelianenko would be at the top of the list of potential opponents. But for now Rampage is focused on his fight on June 24.
"I'm fighting this guy Satoshii Ishii. I've never fought a gold medalist in the Olympics, an Olympic gold medalist. I've never fought somebody like that. He's a southpaw, judo guy. That's a big test for me...I have nothing to prove but if you look at it from my point of view there are always different tests. Can I beat this guy?"
We will find out on June 24.
5 MUST-READ STORIES
Transplant. Kimbo Slice was reportedly in need of a heart transplant before his death.
USADA. Brock Lesnar has been entered into USADA testing pool ahead of UFC 200.
Phone home. Brock Lesnar says he was the one who reached out to Dana White about coming back.
Classless acts. Luke Rockhold says he was pissed off at the "classless" actions of Michael Bisping after UFC 200.
Debut. Emil Meek, the man who stopped Rousimar Palhares at Venator FC, will make his UFC debut in September.
EXTRA CREDIT READING
Kimbo was MMA. Not reading, but Luke Thomas's video retrospective on Kimbo Slice is great stuff.
One of my personal favorite knockouts.
Robin Black and Dan Hardy breaking down the next UFC main event.
Joe Rogan on the lifting of Ariel's ban and Brock.
Neil Magny is campaigning for a fight with UFC welterweight champion Carlos Condit.
4 Dillmans out of 5.
UFC 199 and Kimbo discussion.
It has been a rough year.
2016 has been a rough year.so many good people passed. One thing we can count on at birth... That we will die. pic.twitter.com/s7oa0s5JIz— Gary H Goodridge (@garyhgoodridge) June 7, 2016
It is hard to find anyone with a bad word to say about Kimbo.
Jose Aldo was quick to kill the rumors of his injury.
Always hustling. It would be nice to actually see him back in the cage but Hendo is the man to fight Bisping.
Cejudo should be the run away favorite here.
Elias Theodorou is P4P hair king.
I am only allowing this, per weight class rules. This middleweight has both size and volume on both. https://t.co/UyacJeQNXr— The Spartan (@EliasTheodorou) June 7, 2016
Nice showing here from Dada.
This is a tribute to The Life and Legacy of Kevin Anthony Ferguson also known to the World as (Kimbo Slice). A homegoing celebration (NOT OF HIS DEATH) but of his life! GOD Linded him to us and to the world for 42 years and he inspired a movement that captivated a nation and for that I was inspired and will forever be grateful. Because if it wasn't For Kimbo Slice! There would not be a Dada 5000! Sure we had our Differences and before we Fought I for gave him for every one of them. Kimbo Slice was and will be forever known for his epic and ferocious battles in the backyard that led him to National and international stardom. he is the true definition of a warrior a Husband and a Father, a son, a brother, a uncle and a cousin. That was taken way to soon! So my deepest sympathy and condolences goes out to his grieving family during these tough times. May GOD continue to bless and be with you all. Kevin although God may have called you home! you inspired me also a nation to believe and Achieve greatness and that anything is possible. At that Kevin Anthony "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson! (Job well done) You Showed the World that a guy from the Back yard circuit Can make it in Professional Sports. And may your sole rest in Peace For ever! amongst the Lord Amen.#DADA5OOO #ripkimboslice#Worrior#MadeHistory #Legend#History#Perrine#DatPart
Rockhold didn't come out of this looking very good but I kind of agree with him here.
I love the fight game and all that it offers. It's a chaotic world we live in but the reward far outweighs risk. Allowing the pressure of the situation get to me, I felt the need to preform and make a statement as opposed to staying calculated and winning the fight. I underestimated my opponent and paid for it. Forcing a fight that was unlike me, which left the door open. Credit to Micheal for being the tough guy that he is and capitalizing on the situation. Verbal warfare and fight hype is one thing, but that moment following the outcome of a fight is where a man's true character shines. After our first fight I picked him up off the canvas and gave him his due respect. Bisping went out of his way to come across the cage not to shake my hand like a man but to further mock the situation. I felt it was a classless move on his part. Thus the reason I was so pissed off at the press conference. I don't believe in kicking a man while he's down. I've been here before and I've always learned and grew from these situations. This will be no different. I will go home, heal up, and come back better than ever before. Bisping, I will see you real soon and I will finish this.
To paraphrase TTTHS, Conor got that goofy shirt money.
Terrence B.B pic.twitter.com/Gb708Xw1LU— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) June 7, 2016
This sort of sounds like Faber may be intending to retire.
Chad Mendes looking good.
DL is great.
Peter Sobotta (15-5-1) vs. Nicolas Dalby (14-1-1); UFC Fight Night Germany, September 3.
Emil Weber Meek (8-2-1, 1 NC) vs. Jessin Ayari (15-3-0); UFC Fight Night Germany, September 3.
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
2003: Kazuyuki Fujita nearly shook up the MMA world, seriously hurting heavyweight GOAT Fedor Emelianenko before eventually submitting to a rear-naked choke in the main event of Pride 26: Bad to the Bone.
2012: Demetrious Johnson defeated Ian McCall via unanimous decision in the main event of UFC on FX 3. The bout was a rematch of their previous bout which ended in a controversial draw and held up the tournament to determine the first ever UFC flyweight champion.
2013: Fabricio Werdum avenged his early career loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by submitting him with an armbar in the second round of the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 10. Also on the card, Leonardo won The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season Two tournament by defeating William Macario with an arm-triangle choke. Santos was a replacement for Santiago Ponzinibbio, who defeated Santos in the semifinals but broke his hand and was unable to compete in the finals.
Think I missed a spot? Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.