Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (Keith Mills/Sherdog)History Lessons: Gladiator Challenge 3 and the Early ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Jake Shields and Tim Sylvia The MMA Corner Staff May 10, 2014 Spotlight Every fighter in the UFC, whether champion, legend or debutant, has to start somewhere. That somewhere usually isn’t the big show. Occasionally, multiple future stars end up gathered on a single regional card. At the time, this card may not seem significant, but years down the road, we can look back in hindsight and marvel at how stacked that event turned out to be. That’s exactly what we’ll do in this series, called History Lessons. So, let’s jump in the time machine and travel back. The date was April 7, 2001, and the location was the Soboba Casino in Friant, Calif. It was time for Gladiator Challenge 3: Showdown at Soboba. Some promotions, during certain eras of their existence, captured so much talent in one place at one time that a lineup card reads as if it’s the future roster of the UFC. King of the Cage certainly had its moments as one such promotion, and Ring of Combat continues to amass that level of talent even to this day. In the early aughts, Gladiator Challenge could be counted among this group. The promotion’s third event is a fine example of why this was the case. Scan down the wins column and the names are extremely familiar: Tim Sylvia, Joe Stevenson, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Antonio McKee and Jake Shields all triumphed on that night in the Soboba Casino. The most successful of that group of stars over the long run turned out to be Rampage. His appearance at Gladiator Challenge 3 came before he found stardom. Rampage was just 22 years old at the time. He had debuted in late 1999. By April 2001, he held a 7-1 mark with his only loss coming against Marvin Eastman. The Tennessee native was also in an odd period of his career—he was scoring submissions. Rampage’s opponent was a debuting fighter named Rocko Henderson. Jackson struck early with one of his signature slams, but Henderson threatened with a guillotine from the bottom. Jackson shrugged it off and maintained top control, punishing Henderson with another slam when he scrambled to his feet and then attacking with submissions as clock ticked down. Rampage landed another slam early in the second stanza, and, at the 75-second mark, he coaxed a tap from Henderson with a kimura for the submission finish. Rampage’s next two fights, wins over Bryson Haubrick and Kenneth Williams, would also end in submission. By the time he was a 10-1 fighter, he had five submission victories, only one of which came by way of strikes, and just one TKO. It’s a far cry from the trend that would develop as his career progressed. He has only added two more submission wins in his remaining 34 fights, and one came via strikes and the other by way of injury. Meanwhile, he has added 15 wins by some form of knockout. Henderson’s career ended after that lone fight, but Rampage’s took off. His subsequent wins over Haubrick and Williams led to an invite to fight in Japan for Pride Fighting Championships. His first trip to the Pride ring came just over three months after his kimura finish of Henderson, but he was tasked with fighting Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba, who submitted Rampage in the first round. It was only a temporary setback for Jackson, who rebounded with a win at BattlArts in Japan a few months later, then returned to Pride to rack up a 12-5 overall mark with the promotion between 2001 and 2006. Along the way, he advanced to the finals of the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, where he ultimately lost to Wanderlei Silva, and challenged for the Pride middleweight crown, again in a losing effort against Silva. When Pride crumbled, Rampage made a one-fight stop in the World Fighting Alliance before UFC parent company Zuffa acquired the promotion. In 2007, nearly a full six years after his win over Henderson, Rampage was on the UFC roster. In his Octagon debut, he avenged his previous loss to Eastman with a second-round knockout victory. In his sophomore outing with the promotion, he claimed the light heavyweight title after knocking out long-reigning champion Chuck Liddell. He unified the UFC and Pride titles in just his third UFC fight when he earned a unanimous decision win over Dan Henderson. He dropped the belt to Forrest Griffin in his next outing and went just 4-3 in his remaining UFC bouts, though he did finally pick up a win over Silva. In all, Rampage posted a 7-5 mark in his run with the UFC. Since parting ways with Zuffa, Rampage has landed in Bellator, where he debuted with a win over fellow UFC vet Joey Beltran. He then entered into a four-man light heavyweight tournament and knocked out former Bellator champ Christian M’Pumbu to set the table for his upcoming May 17 tournament final bout against nemesis Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. The featured contest of the evening pitted future UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia against Gabe Beauperthuy. Beauperthuy, a wrestler, was still on the right side of the .500 mark then. He had lost his pro debut in 1999 to Heath Herring, but he bounced back with two wins in a single night at the fourth Bas Rutten Invitational event. Sylvia, meanwhile, was a fledgling mixed martial artist with just one fight—a TKO victory—under his belt. He added a second victory when he locked in a choke on Beauperthuy in the second round for the submission win. The fighters’ careers headed in opposite directions after the contest. Beauperthuy dropped his next five fights before going inactive in 2004. He returned in 2012 with a 57-second submission win, but has not fought since then. He turned out to be the second win of a 13-fight streak for Sylvia that would land the big man in the Octagon just over a year later. Once in the UFC, Sylvia extended his undefeated mark to 16 fights while also claiming and defending the UFC’s heavyweight crown. His successful defense was marred by a failed post-fight drug test that led to the UFC stripping him of the belt. He made two unsuccessful bids for the title over the following two years before recapturing it in 2006. In 2008, after compiling a 10-4 record inside the Octagon, Sylvia left for Affliction, where he was destroyed by Fedor Emelianenko. The road has been rough since then. He was embarrassed by Ray Mercer in his next outing, campaigned for a UFC return after putting together a 7-1 run and, following a no-contest against Andrei Arlovski, dropped his three most recent outings. Jake Shields hadn’t shown as much early promise in his career as Rampage and Sylvia. When he entered the Gladiator Challenge cage that April night, he sported a career mark of 4-2. His opponent, the undefeated Tracy Hess, appeared to be the brighter prospect. Hess had tallied three wins in three appearances, but he was also making his return to action after a nearly two-year absence from the sport. Shields scored the upset by outworking Hess over the duration of two rounds for the unanimous decision win. Hess kept busy for the next year with two more wins, but that was it for his career. Shields won five of his next seven, while losing once and fighting to a draw against Kazuo Misaki. He avenged the only loss in that span when he claimed a victory over Ray Cooper for the Shooto welterweight title. Shields lost the belt in his first defense, but then sparked a massive run of 15 wins in a row. During that streak, he defeated Yushin Okami and Carlos Condit en route to winning the 2006 Rumble on the Rock tournament, captured and defended the EliteXC welterweight championship and the Strikeforce middleweight championship, and made the move to the UFC. Shields’ Octagon debut came in October 2010, more than nine years after he defeated Hess under the Gladiator Challenge banner. He claimed a split verdict over Martin Kampmann and moved on to challenge Georges St-Pierre for the UFC welterweight title. GSP snapped Shields’ extended winning streak, and Shields has gone just 3-2 with one no-contest since the defeat. After a disappointing showing against Hector Lombard, Shields was released by the UFC. He has signed a multi-fight deal with the World Series of Fighting and expects to make his promotional debut at WSOF 11 on July 5 against fellow UFC castoff Jon Fitch. Shields wasn’t the only fighter from the lineup to toil around for years before seeing the inside of the Octagon. In fact, his nine-year wait between his fight at Gladiator Challenge 3 and his UFC debut isn’t even the longest among the group. That honor belongs to Antonio McKee, whose wait lasted two months longer. McKee was a 7-1 prospect when he squared off with David Harris, a veteran who already held a record of 18-8-1. McKee applied his usual M.O. of grinding his opponent en route to a decision win. Nearly six years after his Gladiator Challenge outing, McKee landed in the IFL, where he went undefeated through four fights. A 15-fight undefeated stretch that included the IFL victories and three wins in Maximum Fighting Championship earned McKee his shot in the UFC in 2011. He came up short in a close fight against Jacob Volkmann. The UFC opted not to invite McKee back for a second chance. Since departing the UFC, he has gone just 3-2 while making appearances with the MFC, the World Series of Fighting and Dream. The night also went well for two other future UFC fighters. Joe “Daddy” Stevenson was a 7-3 fighter when he entered the cage opposite Maurice Wilson, who was 1-0 with one no-contest at the time. Wilson’s one win happened to be a submission finish of Stevenson in a fight that took place the previous year and counted as the third loss in a three-fight skid for Stevenson. Stevenson avenged the loss with a decision win. Wilson didn’t fight again until 2005, when he lost in the lone fight of his attempted comeback. More than four years and 18 fights later, Stevenson participated in The Ultimate Fighter 2 and launched a lengthy UFC career that netted him eight wins in 16 Octagon appearances. A four-fight skid led to his exit from the UFC in 2011. His skid continued in 2012 with a loss to Dakota Cochrane under the Resurrection Fighting Alliance banner. Stevenson has remained inactive since that submission defeat. Jason Lambert moved his record to 2-0 when he defeated the debuting Adrian Perez via a 67-second TKO. Perez won his next fight, then proceeded to go 1-11 over his next 12 outings. After more than six years away from action, “The Lunatic” did return in 2013. Naturally, he lost. Lambert’s tale is much different. He went just 1-2 over his next three fights, but then found a rhythm and posted a 16-3 stretch that landed him in the UFC. Lambert’s only losses in that span came against Sylvia, Wesley “Cabbage” Correira and Chael Sonnen. His UFC run wasn’t quite as impressive. He won his first three UFC outings, then lost to Rashad Evans. He did bounce back with a victory over Renato “Babalu” Sobral, but then lost three straight and was ushered out the doors by the UFC. He has gone just 3-4 since his UFC release and just 1-1 since returning to action in 2013 after more than two years of inactivity. Over the course of 10 fights, Gladiator Challenge showcased six fighters who would go on to grace the UFC’s Octagon. Not a single one of those fighters remains with the UFC, but some of them are still intent to make their mark in new promotional homes, including Bellator MMA and the World Series of Fighting. With the likes of Rampage, Shields, Sylvia, Stevenson, McKee and Lambert gracing the lineup, Gladiator Challenge 3 played an important role in the early development of a wave of future stars.