Quinton “Rampage” Jackson returns to the UFC tomorrow under the most peculiar of circumstances. Having opted out of his Bellator MMA contract, according to Jackson due to a clause allowing him to cancel said contract with notice if Bellator failed to live up to certain agreements, he signed with the UFC in a much-ballyhooed move late last year. There was only one problem: Bellator MMA didn’t recognize Rampage’s right to walk away and took the matter to court. After winning an initial injunction in New Jersey that saw Jackson briefly pulled from the UFC 186 card, where he was/is set to face Fabio Maldonado, Jackson managed to win a last-minute reprieve, having the injunction lifted earlier this week.

Rampage’s future will still play out in a courtroom, as having the injunction lifted does not mean the battle is over. Bellator MMA will still have a chance to make their case, which hinges around whether or not they delivered PPV numbers to Jackson as required by his contract, and whether or not failure to do so would allow him to walk out on their deal (not to mention whether Bellator still retains the right to match any offer a competitor makes in this case). For the time being, however, he has a fight to look forward to, and fans have another curious case on their hands. In the world of MMA, curious is pretty much the norm these days.

Jackson hasn’t set foot in the UFC octagon since a 2013 loss to Glover Teixeira. It was the third loss in a three-fight losing skid that started with a title shot against Jon Jones, then detoured to Japan for a surprising loss to Ryan Bader, in the land that is essentially a second home to Rampage.

The Bader loss is when you really began to hear Rampage complain about facing wrestlers. Guys who would, in his opinion, fight boring fights, point fight, and avoid trading with him. To this day, Jackson isn’t thrilled about that style of fighting, and says he rarely watches MMA bouts as a result.

Fair enough, but he’s still fighting in them. And wrestling is a big part of that game.

Following the loss to Glover, Jackson opted to test the waters elsewhere and signed with Bellator MMA. And for a time, things were great. Jackson would win all three fights he had in Bellator, against Joey Beltran, Christian M’Pumbu (a former Bellator light heavyweight champion), and King Mo, in the headlining fight of Bellator’s first and only PPV to date. Who can forget Rampage running around screaming that “Bjorn Rebney fixed my knees!” in the Bellator cage? It seemed like the perfect fit.

It might have been, then. However, after Rebney was cut loose and Scott Coker brought in by Viacom, things quickly soured. You can’t really blame it on Coker, and, in fact, it may just come down to a side effect of the regime change: you can’t keep everyone happy. As a “Rebney Guy” who felt the company’s departed founder had done a lot for him, it was clear Jackson wasn’t going to be keen on the change.

No one, however, expected him to find his way out of his contract, and fewer expected him to actually make it to UFC 186. It seemed almost certain that Bellator would manage to at least tie the case up in court for a while, a situation that left Eddie Alvarez in limbo for roughly a year of his career.

The fact that Jackson is fighting Saturday is good news for fans, especially in Montreal where the event has struggled to sell tickets so badly that the UFC has reportedly closed off the upper levels of the Bell Centre and shifted all fans down to the lower bowl.

As for Jackson — with all the drama, there are a number of questions we have for him.

How Will The Distractions Impact His In-Cage Performance?

Jackson’s UFC 186 bout with Fabio Maldonado is now being held at a catchweight of 215lbs following its off-again, on-again status. That’s fair enough: told he wouldn’t be fighting, Jackson clearly wasn’t about to start cutting weight, and now doesn’t have adequate time to make 205lbs. He gets a clear pass on that one; whether you like him or not, court decisions are out of his control. However, how will Jackson perform given he’s had all of these external legal distractions? Is he stressed out over the impending, greater legal battle with Bellator MMA?

What Do Jackson’s Three Bellator Wins Really Mean?

Rampage picked up three wins in Bellator, the first two being stoppages over former UFC fighter Joey Beltran and former Bellator MMA light heavyweight champion Christian M’Pumbu. The third was a close decision win over King Mo (though not the robbery it was made out to be, but a close fight nonetheless). Where does that put him in the UFC light heavyweight division, which is much deeper than that of Bellator, but is itself aging and in need of an injection of youth?

Will This Be The End Of Jackson In The UFC?

This has almost nothing to do with Rampage’s performance in the cage, however, the question remains: is this the last time we see Rampage Jackson in the UFC?

The lifted court injunction, which allows him to fight, covers, in essence, this fight alone. Bellator could move to block him from future fights, and the battle for who actually retains his services is far from over. This case will play out before the courts, and booking another fight for Jackson before all is said and done would not be a wise move for the UFC. Should it be ruled that Jackson is contractually obligated to fight for Bellator, they’re likely to owe Bellator for lost revenue. And Jackson/the UFC winning this case is far from a certainty.

Should Bellator win, they have Rampage locked down for three more fights. Jackson will be thirty-seven in June, and may not wish to fight professionally for too much longer. In fact, if really dissatisfied with Bellator, there’s a chance he could simply retire rather than fight out his contract.

With that in mind, this may be the last we see of Jackson in the UFC, one last swan song against the exact type of fighter he wants to be paired up again. Let’s hope he makes the most of it.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.