Article by Dave Walsh
Rampage Jackson’s jump to Spike TV’s properties in Bellator and TNA Wrestling is an interesting thing to happen in MMA, quite possibly one of the most interesting things to happen to MMA in quite a while. That isn’t to say that UFC is disinteresting, really, but it feels like it is on cruise control and that most of the big stories are pretty cut and dry, if not just dry. Rampage always brings with him a sense of the unknown, danger you could even say.
Rampage’s departure from the UFC was no shock, as we knew about it well before he was ever done with his UFC contract. His last few fights have been odd ones, where clearly Rampage and the UFC weren’t getting along and everyone involved knew that it was over when his contract was fulfilled, but it really felt like it came out of nowhere, especially after the UFC saved Rampage from the mouth of madness a few years ago. Rampage is perhaps most famous for his out-of-the-ring “rampage” that involved his truck (with a giant decal of himself on the side) and him driving on sidewalks, nearly killing a few people, then claiming that he was hopped up on energy drinks.
That should have been it for Rampage’s career and his starpower, but from there he went on to star in the A-Team film, which is where he explains his relationship with the UFC fell apart, as he was out of action for so long. The truth probably lays somewhere in the middle, not what Dana White says and not what Rampage says. Both men are known to be difficult to deal with.
So the question is; will more fighters jump to Bellator seeing how the red carpet was rolled out for him?
The quick answer is that more will try to get a deal like that, but I don’t expect many fighters will get that kind of treatment. It would take a bonafied star, like Rampage, to get that kind of treatment. If, for example, Cheick Kongo were to sign with Bellator, he would get a pretty standard contract and no big parade and conference call. If someone like GSP, Anderson Silva or Jon Jones were to jump, well, I’d expect Viacom to rename Spike TV after them, to be honest. A lot of lower level fighters might eventually find themselves in Bellator at some point, but they’ll just be treated like fighters.
I’m not sure that I see a big star jumping over unless the Bellator brand really takes off, which it hasn’t. Has it steadily built up? Yes. Do people on the streets recognize Bellator fighters as much as UFC fighters? No, absolutely not. Rampage is a good start, but for Bellator to really take off they’ll need to poach some more big name talent and the message that they sent with Rampage Jackson is that they are willing to not only do business, but to do anything they can for even a star of moderate value like Rampage at this point.
This is a sweet deal for Rampage no matter what. He was on the way out with the UFC and the UFC was just going to let his starpower fade into obscurity, which makes sense for them, but is also kind of crazy. Rampage was a moderate star for them, one that they could have milked for years if they fostered the relationship and treated him like a star, like he wanted to be treated. It might be wrong to give a spoiled kid what he wants, but then again, it seems like Viacom is betting that it would have been good for the UFC’s business and that it will be good for Viacom’s business.