On paper, the latest conflict between the UFC and Bellator MMA appears to be all about ‘Rampage’.

After leaving his employer of six years in late 2013, Quinton Jackson (35-11) signed an exclusive six-fight contract with Bellator in a move that signaled the promotion’s ambitious growth strategy and a coup for then-Bellator President, Bjorn Rebney. Jackson’s signature also sowed the seeds of Bellator’s migration from its unique, but limited, tournament format.

One year and three fights later though, Jackson would sever ties with Bellator, citing a breach of contract, before returning to the devil he knew in the UFC. With the stage set for a brawling contest against Fabio Maldonado at UFC 186, Bellator and its new President Scott Coker responded by filing a court injunction this past Monday, claiming it was ‘Rampage’ who had failed to honor their agreement.

While history would suggest that holding a fighter to their contract against their will is unlikely to benefit any of the parties involved, this entire episode eclipses Jackson’s value as a talent and star with name value in casual and devoted MMA fan circles. Bellator’s motive is not simply to retain a well-renowned name; it is for a greater cause.

It concerns perception; the desire to erase the notion that Bellator MMA is a secondary organization.

The saga is an example of how a bidding war can quickly backfire against an individual. Jackson, an accomplished fighter who most recently earned a three round decision win over Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal at Bellator 120, is perilously close to becoming a pawn in a greater dispute.

The adage that one must be their biggest champion holds true here. If Bellator is to surmount its opposition and continue chipping away at the UFC’s sizeable market share, Coker’s organization must conduct itself as such; rejecting subordinate status while digging in its heels to resist the whims of Jackson and the UFC.

Superficially, the situation might draw comparisons to Eddie Alvarez. Alvarez was the face of Bellator under the Rebney regime until the lightweight competitor’s career was sidetracked over contractual disputes. However, with changes to leadership, talent, and contract structure, the current dynamic is vastly different. Coker willingly released Alvarez to cleanse Bellator of the public relations plague that his predecessor had cultivated in a climate of debated fighter rights. Now, Coker is firmly in the saddle, the captain of his own ship with eyes for a new vision.

As one skirmish looks set to take place in court, a potential war between media enterprises continues to develop in the public sphere. Amid such conflict, the great irony of this episode is that, for Jackson, the cage remains empty.

About The Author

Aidan O'Connor
Staff Writer

A native of Maidstone, England, Aidan has been covering MMA in a news or feature capacity since 2010. In addition to writing for The MMA Corner, Aidan also runs the MMAmusing Twitter account and enjoys the sport as an avid enthusiast. A graduate in English and American Studies, he currently works in marketing and public relations.