What was expected to be a major announcement from Quinton “Rampage” Jackson during Bellator 97 turned out to be a major dud.

You’ve got to hand it to Bellator, however. The promotion certainly had everyone believing it would be a Rampage vs. Roy Jones Jr. announcement. Bellator even flew Jones Jr. out to sit cageside and zoomed in on him numerous times throughout the show. When Rampage stepped into the cage to deliver his announcement, however, it was Tito Ortiz who stepped in the cage rather than the former boxing champion. A collective hush ran through the MMA world followed by intense head scratching. Bellator wants to pair up two fighters from the senior circuit and make us pay to watch?

Uh, what?

That’s right. Bellator’s first-ever pay-per-view on Nov. 2 will be headlined by a man who is 2-3 in his last five fights (Jackson) and another who is 1-7-1 in his last nine (Ortiz). Fans have reacted in a few ways since the announcement, but the general thought is that this is a terrible idea for Bellator.

The records are one thing; that’s the most obvious reason why this fight is a disaster. Jackson hasn’t been relevant in years and Ortiz has been nothing more than a launching pad for younger fighters in recent memory. Add in the fact that Ortiz looked about as fast as Honey Boo Boo’s mom in his last fight against Forrest Griffin, and you have a recipe for disaster. Rampage can attribute his poor performances in the UFC to not being happy with his employer, but I fail to see what being unhappy has to do with being a one-trick pony.

Moving past the poor records of both combatants, the move goes against everything Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney and company have tried to be since coming into the world of MMA. Remember when Rebney was against bringing in Jon Fitch?

“We have a stacked welterweight division right now,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that we are developing that we anticipate are going to be world class fighters and break the top ten. We want to keep guys busy. We want to keep guys inside the cage and we have a plan in terms of the next year and who is going to be apart of the tournaments and it’s just not the time.”

Apparently, Fitch and his top-10 ranking (at the time) didn’t fit into Bellator’s plans, but a declining Rampage and Ortiz do. Making Rampage and Ortiz headline Bellator’s first pay-per-view card goes against the promotion’s core ideal of developing its own talent. Look at Bellator’s top guys and see how many were groomed inside the Bellator cage. Odds are most, if not all, made their name under the Bellator banner. Instead of banking on one of its top guys, Bellator is going with a pair of UFC rejects who can’t draw at all with the MMA community these days.

As easy as it is to criticize this decision—it’s so easy a caveman could do it—there are some positives to take away from Bellator’s decision. As much as Jackson and Ortiz are irrelevant with the core MMA fan base, they’re still big names with the casual fan. Jackson is noted for his acting career and has been one of the most recognizable figures in MMA history.

The same can be said for Ortiz as well. He made a name for himself under the nickname “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” as a cocky, brash young fighter who said what he wanted and did as he pleased. His rivalries with Ken Shamrock and Chuck Liddell were not only some of the most important in the early days of MMA, they were also some of the most profitable.

It’s that profitability that is driving Bellator’s decision to match these two men up. Bellator doesn’t have anyone who can carry the weight of headlining a pay-per-view other than these two. Muhammed “King Mo” was/is tied up with the light heavyweight tournament and title fight. Ben Askren is about as exciting as watching a car rust. Alexander Shlemenko and Alexander Volkov are both talented but relatively unknown in most MMA circles. The same could be said of champions Michael Chandler and Pat Curran.

The decision by Bellator will bring with it quite a bit of criticism and ire from MMA fans. The pay-per-view will likely bomb and the promotion will hopefully learn its lesson that the way to money isn’t through pay-per-view buys. Or maybe Bellator will come out looking like a mad hatter-type genius if this works out. Either way, Bellator is going to have an uphill battle on selling this card to fans, and that’s without even naming a price or any other fights on the Nov. 2 event.

Photo: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Tito Ortiz (Bellator MMA)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.