Bellator 120 is done, and things basically couldn't have gone much worse for Bellator. While a night full of upsets is normally a welcome thing for fans and promoters alike, Bellator is not like most promotions.
The UFC can shed a star, or two, or three, or all of them, but it can move on with a product that it can sell reasonably well on its name alone. Bellator, though? It relies on a handful of fighters to produce the numbers for its weekly cards.
Most of that lot were on the card Saturday night, and the promotion's biggest draw, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, sat atop them all, opposite on-again, off-again rival "King" Mo Lawal. The bout was billed as "the biggest grudge match in MMA," but like pretty much every other grudge match, the goings-on were methodical, measured and in no way driven by the pure vitriol the tagline would suggest.
Lawal, as you would expect from a former world-class wrestler facing off with somebody who has deteriorating takedown defense skills, looked to get things to the ground early. Sometimes he succeeded, leading to measured pitapat ground-and-pound before seeing Jackson work back to his feet. Sometimes he didn't, leading to a couple of right hands to the noodle.
In the end, Jackson wound up taking a narrow decision win, earning the right to be introduced as the "Bellator Season 10 Light Heavyweight Tournament Winner" and a title shot against champion Emanuel Newton.
On paper, it's the perfect scenario for Bellator. Once again, he's the promotion's biggest draw, perfectly lined up to become a champion. It's something Bellator has been looking to arrange for a long while, and the one thing that could conceivably let it consistently draw over one million viewers.
In reality, however, it's a very, very ugly situation.
While Bellator wants to have Jackson as a champion, Jackson is done with that part of his career. Quite simply, he doesn't want to be champion.
That isn't a bad thing in the slightest, mind you. Jackson is content as a veteran with a secure legacy as one of the better fighters in his division's history. At 35 years old, he is hungry to advance his career in Hollywood, not cagefighting.
It also certainly doesn't help that he is friends and training partners with Newton and that Jackson doesn't want to alienate and divide mutual friends by fighting him.
All of Bellator's carefully laid plans, partially scripted storylines and millions of dollars have run their course. And what is there to show for it?
Bellator's list of potential headlining bouts? Incredibly short. Its return on investment from this event? Likely dripping red. Its roster's overall star power? Lower than ever.
With Jackson, it has a star who caps his own potential. With Lawal, it has a potential soon-to-be-former employee who took every opportunity to take swipes at the promotion Saturday in his post-fight interview.
So what did we learn from this nightmare scenario with Bellator?
That this event, as well as any notion of Jackson's title contention, was doomed to fail from the start.
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