This Friday’s Bellator 175 rematch between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and “King” Mo Lawal was initially met with a collective shrug shoulders and quiet sighs of disappointment. The first fight was no fun. Something about Rampage’s fights have lost their luster. Maybe it’s the age, maybe it’s level of competition, maybe it’s the constant karmic sting of having starred in The A-Team remake. Somethings been off, something’s been missing. But it wasn’t always this way.
Rampage Jackson truly is a legend of Mixed Martial Arts. His storied career includes being must see TV for nearly 15 years. In some bizarre way, no one else in the sport today has better bridged the gap from the no holds barred, no rules era into modern MMA better than Rampage. It’s hard to find someone who’s fought more Hall of Fame caliber fighters. He united the Pride and UFC Light Heavyweight belts.
And like any good fight fan, I’m a sucker for nostalgia. And thus, despite all logical evidence pointing to the contrary, I’m fucking pumped to see Rampage Jackson fight again.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to look at Rampage’s accomplishments before he was in the UFC, before there ever was a Bellator to honor the poetic genius of this legend of the sport.
Early Days & King of the Cage
In a story that falls into the category of too weird to not be true, Rampage Jackson’s first professional MMA fight was against future UFC welterweight Mike Pyle. According to Pyle, it was three rounds of signature Rampage Power Bombs. Essential too tough for his own good, Pyle repeatedly got slammed to the canvas as he attempted submissions. Rampage won his hometown debut unanimously.
Jackson’s third pro fight was for the King of the Cage Super Heavyweight Champion… against Marvin Eastman. In case you aren’t sure how old school that is, it’s very very old school:
Rampage would recover from his first loss with eight straight victories, including winning and defending the King of the Cage Light Heavyweight title.
His abilities on the mic and his finishes in the cage were gaining him attention. Soon Japan would come calling…
Stardom in Japan
Rampage was signed to fight Pride star Kazushi Sakuraba. It didn’t just mark the beginning of a new era for Rampage in the cage; it marked the beginning of Rampage Jackson as a star. During any Pride footage, it always seems as if Rampage was living in a world where consequences didn’t apply. The hyper-bizarreness of Rampage interacting with Japanese culture only added to his surreal brand of entertainment. A personal favorite among the troves of bizarre, is this “movie” of Sakuraba and Rampage having “fighting”. It’s made even more bizarre because they scripted the fight sequence to go just like the real fight went.
After finishing MMA pioneer Kevin Randleman, Rampage fully came into his own as a power puncher, and a threat to the elite level fighters in Pride. This pre & post fight footage encapsulates all the great weirdness of Pride.
In one of the greatest and most prophetic post-fight moments in MMA, Randleman after losing congratulates Rampage. “Only you can beat you…” Damn, Kevin Randleman cuts deep.
Adding to all the in ring theatrics, Rampage’s work out of the ring was his most hilarious and absurd of his career. A few fights after losing to Sakuraba, Rampage got disqualified for kicking Diajiro Matsui in the balls about 15 seconds into the fight, and he responds:
Rampage also began starring in horrible direct to video movies, a financially lucrative yet ridicule-worthy pursuit that would culminate in the disaster that was The A-Team. I know I already mentioned it, but it was seriously that bad. Never see it. (I saw it on a plane and still felt like it was a waste of my time.) But watching Rampage take full advantage of his stardom was endlessly delightful. Watch him talk shit about the UFC, and then hit some poor Japanese kid with a foam sign:
In 2003, Pride held a Middleweight Grand Prix with the biggest names in the sport. During this tournament, Rampage would emerge as one of the best fighters in MMA, defeating Murilo Bustamante in the quarterfinals, finishing Chuck Liddell in front of Dana White in during Pride Final Conflict 2003, and ultimately losing to Wanderlei Silva in the Final that same night. After this, Rampage was a global star. His rivalry with Wanderlei Silva was a major part of the middleweight division Pride until the 2005 middleweight grand prix. You could even say his loss to Shogun Rua made Shogun a star in Pride.
So this Friday, when Rampage goes out to throw bungalows and hopefully dry humps a reporter post fight, let’s remember… this is not just some obnoxious man. This is a cherished part of our MMA history. He’s MMA Ric Flair. Let’s embrace him.