According to an email press release from Spike TV to BR MMA, "Rampage" has signed an exclusive multi-year deal with the company and will look to compete for the promotion later this year. The terms of Jackson's agreement also include obligations to Spike TV and the TNA wrestling organization, where he will join fellow light heavyweight fighter Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal on the professional wrestling circuit.
The announcement of the signing ends the recent uptick in speculation as to where the former UFC light heavyweight champion would next compete. While there were other promotions actively pursuing the free agent, Jackson has chosen to launch the next chapter of his career with the second-largest promotion in the sport.
With superstar-level name recognition and an impressive resume to his credit, Jackson is easily one of the biggest names in the sport and a solid pick up for the rising organization. That being said, there are certainly potential pitfalls to the deal, and if these dangers arise, what Spike TV is calling a "monumental partnership" could turn into a disaster.
Nevertheless, the former Pride star will bring a solid chunk of spotlight with him into the Bellator ranks, and there is the potential for a solid amount of upside in Jackson's signing.
Let's take a look at the pros and cons of the situation.
While Jackson finished his time with the UFC on a three-fight losing skid and won only two of his final five fights for the promotion, the truth of the matter is that he had been uninspired for quite some time. Being at odds with the company you are working for rarely yields positive results, and the situation certainly did no favors where the former champion was concerned.
The differences between Jackson and the sport's largest promotion were made clear: The UFC made the 34-year-old a millionaire, but at the same time, Jackson didn't believe he was treated favorably in the grand scheme of things.
With Bellator, the heavy-handed slugger will have a fresh start and this will hopefully light the fires of inspiration beneath him. There is no doubting Jackson's talents when he is on top of his game and there are certainly a handful of interesting matchups waiting for him in Bellator, with the most notable being an eventual showdown with Lawal in the light heavyweight fold.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney has stated the pay-per-view format is something he would like to explore in the future and a bout between Jackson and Lawal would serve as a solid anchor for that purpose. Jackson brings star power to the equation and is one of the few fighters fight fans will tune in to watch no matter where he's slinging leather.
In the press release from Spike, the company announced they will also be doing a reality show built around Jackson leading into his official Bellator debut. With Spike selling Jackson to their fanbase and his name value pulling in additional viewers, the potential is there for this relationship to pay big dividends.
Throughout his storied career, Jackson has made no secrets about his disdain for training. During his time with the UFC, the perennial contender consistently battled weight issues and had difficulty staying on the healthy side of things. If these habits aren't addressed by Jackson and company heading into this new endeavor, things could quickly take a sharp turn south.
Bellator has made their name in the sport of MMA by using the tournament format. "The toughest tournament in sports" has proven to be just that, as other notable fighters the promotion has brought into the fold have stumbled and stalled during the three-round process.
Last year's light heavyweight tournament was a shining example of just how dangerous the format can be. Seasoned veteran Renato "Babalu" Sobral was snuffed out in the first round and heavily hyped favorite "King Mo" fell victim to an Emanuel Newton spinning back fist to be eliminated in the second leg of the tournament. With all of the buildup surrounding Lawal's signing and apparent coronation as the next Bellator superstar, the loss to Newton was a tough blow on several levels.
With Jackson's history, the idea of him working his way through three fights in three months seems somewhat of a long shot, but a motivated "Rampage" is no one to count out. Should Jackson be able to maintain his health throughout the process and make his way to fight for the light heavyweight championship, the payoff for all parties involved would be substantial.
This of course will also depend on how well the veteran's body holds up to the TNA demands in his contract. While the extent of that particular obligation is not yet public knowledge, professional wrestling is a demanding and physically taxing grind in itself. While Jackson's persona could make a big splash on the professional wrestling scene, it could also take a heavy toll on his ability to stay healthy enough to compete inside the cage.
My Personal Take
Bellator is coming off a rough series of public relations disasters with the Eddie Alvarez contract fiasco and several of their past fighters publicly blasting the organization, so signing Jackson could serve to remedy the situation for the time being.
He is a proven commodity in the sport and if Jackson is motivated to get to work under the Bellator banner, Jackson could absolutely pull some heat in the organization's direction.
Outside of the UFC, Bellator is the only major promotion making strides right now on the current landscape in MMA. While Rebney has publicly stated his refusal to pick up UFC cast-offs, Jackson doesn't necessarily fit that bill. Granted, the former Pride champion ended his time under the UFC banner on a rough skid. He looked listless in his lopsided unanimous decision loss to Glover Teixeira at UFC on Fox 6 back in January, but things with the promotion had already gone far beyond repair.
Jackson wanted out of his contract with the UFC and got his wish shortly after his fight in Chicago.
At 34 years old, the window for Jackson to be dynamic is absolutely coming to a close. He's already logged 44 bouts inside the cage, and in a sport as unforgiving as mixed martial arts, the wear and tear on an athlete's body brings forth a reckoning no fighter can avoid.
On the other hand, Jackson rose to the top of the sport on the strength of proven talent and nasty put-away power in both hands. If he can find the inspiration to put all the pieces back together and doesn't simply jump into this new contract looking for paychecks, then the notorious "Rampage howl" could return in full force.
Will Bellator and Jackson find lightning in a bottle with this endeavor? I don't think so, but I also do not believe that is what either party is searching for. If Jackson can avoid injury and keep the fire lit, the next and possibly final chapter of his career could end on a high note.