The saga of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s relationship with the UFC has been quite the epic tale starting with the way he was signed up until this very moment. If you weren’t aware already, Jackson was at one point such a valuable property the UFC went out and bought the organization he was contracted to (WFA), yet now the 33-year old feels his employers no longer have his back and wants to leave town as soon as he’s contractually able to do so.
However, while my initial inclination is to say good riddance, part of me wonders if there is not a more positive way to handle the matter where everyone wins.
Jackson said the UFC made him lose his love of fighting after his loss to Forrest Griffin, apparently the first straw in the bunch eventually breaking the 33-year old’s back in recent weeks. Has he forgotten they bailed him out of jail after being arrested for multiple felonies and having his sanity questioned based on an energy-drink fueled period of no sleep? What about the fact they matched him up with Wanderlei Silva after he’d plead for an opportunity to face the man who’d beat him twice? Or perhaps the second title-shot he received despite barely beating Lyoto Machida in a questionable decision and outpointing Matt Hamill has slipped his mind? What about the organization’s patience when he decided to make a movie, leaving them high-and-dry when he was expected to take on Rashad Evans and their willingness to book him for UFC 144 so he could fulfill his desire to fight again in front of Japanese fans?
The reality is the UFC been in Jackson’s corner for a long time. Perhaps setting him free would remind him of how good he had it but my concern is that it could also send Jackson into a downward spiral. His statements on Twitter and even in an interview this week with Inside MMA do not sound like the thoughts of someone whose mind is in a good place. He’s battled depression before and is known for partying, a bad combo where mental health can be concerned (as we saw in 2008 after losing the light heavyweight title).
The best thing the UFC can do at this point is remind Jackson of how much he is worth to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean a raise, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt, but rather a face-to-face meeting with Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta to smooth tensions over. If he’s sick of fighting wrestlers, comply and book him against strikers even if it means he’ll no longer be in the championship hunt. Jackson wants a rematch with Griffin as well as Mauricio Rua so why not offer them up? If he wants an extra $100,000 a fight, when the UFC is giving out $150,000+ in bonuses every event to virtual unknowns would it really hurt them to spend an extra $200,000-$300,000 over 12-18 months to keep Jackson happy?
“Rampage” is one of the few legitimate stars in MMA with crossover appeal. He’s funny, he’s an entertaining fighter, and he has a record to back his fame up. Part of managing any business is identifying the key players and keeping them content even if it means occasional coddling. His attitude right now in most arenas would result in immediate termination but the UFC is in the sports-entertainment industry and stars can often be divas. As such, without any truly ridiculous demands from Jackson, it’s time to tell him he’s the most beautiful fighter in the room, that he doesn’t look fat in his shorts, and that they NEED him.
The Zuffa brass sucked up PRIDE once before. It’s time to do so again but literally.
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