Quinton “Rampage” Jackson today said he wants to help put Bellator MMA on the map. When considering the vehicle on which he made the comments, he may already be doing that.
Jackson (32-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), of course, meets fellow ex-UFC light-heavyweight champ Tito Ortiz (16-11-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) on a Nov. 2 pay-per-view event. But the former UFC headliners are doing so with their new home, Bellator, which tests the PPV waters for the first time.
While most fans reacted to the fight’s initial announcement with confusion or mockery – and though the recently added co-headliner between Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler (12-0 MMA, 9-0 BMMA) and Eddie Alvarez (24-3 MMA, 9-1 BMMA) brings some needed credibility to the card – it did open some doors for the organization. After all, Jackson today laid out his goals while a guest on “SportsCenter.” It’s part of a daylong series of ESPN media appearances, usually dubbed a “carwash.”
The UFC, the world’s most visible fight promotion, is no stranger to ESPN’s publicity machine. And though Jackson and Ortiz both are on three-fight losing streaks, and though their careers had run their course in the UFC, even casual sports fans likely know their names.
That’s a primary reason ESPN likely took notice for today’s appearances.
“This is a good time right now,” Jackson said. “We just signed with Bellator, and I want to help put Bellator on the map. Why not do it with a legend with someone like Tito?”
Rather than discussing their pasts with the UFC, and instead of dwelling on Bellator’s uphill climb to make a dent in the PPV market, the “SportsCenter” segment focused on the fight itself. Bellator 106 plays host to the bout at Long Beach Arena in California, where light heavyweights Muhammed Lawal (11-2 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) and Emanuel Newton (21-7-1 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) also fight for an interim belt.
A talking point for today’s ESPN interview was Jackson and Ortiz’s past friendship.
“I think it’s business,” Ortiz said. “It’s strictly business. … For the first eight years of our competition, we sparred against each other almost everyday. We wrestled against each other. We did jiu-jitsu. We did the things to make each other better.
“Over the last five years after, we bettered ourselves by fighting other fighters. … That’s what makes this match so intriguing for the fighters to watch. You want to see two of the best fighters compete against each other? I’m healthier. My mind’s set on a great positive right now, he’s in a great place, and I think fans want to see a great fight, which they’ll see on Nov. 2.”
Whether or not that’s true, for at least for one day, their names give them a chance to make that pitch over the ESPN airwaves.
For more on “Bellator 106: Rampage vs. Tito,” stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson)