by Ryan Bennett – MMAWeekly.com
Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson has some tough decisions to make. The first is who his next opponent will be, the second is if he will re-sign with Pride or third, will he consider leaving the comfortable confines of DSE for an incentive laden deal with the UFC?
The latest on Quinton Jackson is this. Rampage has been offered a few opponents for his February 26th fight. This is Jackson’s last fight on his Pride contract. Right now it looks like Nakamura is the lead candidate to fight Quinton next month at Pride 31. I’ve heard rumblings that Pride has also offered the name Pedro Rizzo to Jackson as well. This goes along the lines of two other Light Heavy’s moving up to Heavyweight in Shogun Rua and Alistair Overeem.
Sergei Kharitonov was also a possible name to face Jackson, but instead Kharitonov will square off against Alistair Overeem as was confirmed by Pride’s website over the weekend.
Quinton has made a very comfortable living with DSE for the past few years as they have been very good financially to Rampage. The question though is who is left for him to fight in the company? If they are offering him heavyweights, that tells you all you need to know about what his future holds if he stays. He will have to bang with the big boys if he wants to stay in Pride.
If you talk with those around Quinton, I truly believe Quinton wants to fight in the UFC and he would love to be the next big name in the company, but Jackson is also smart and he won’t sign a deal for 10 and 10 to fight in the Octagon. Jackson has also made it clear he wants a “warm-up” fight if he goes to the UFC, not be thrown in against say Chuck Liddell right away. Will the UFC open their pocketbooks for Jackson? They should as right now the only three legit contenders the company has is Liddell, Couture and Babalu. Tito Ortiz was demolished by Couture and Liddell and the UFC won’t have Ortiz face Babalu any time soon. Jackson would add a shot in the arm in the 205 weight class. Once again though it comes down to money. Even if the UFC doesn’t want to pay Rampage six figures, you know there are plenty of endorsement deals ahead of Quinton if he does sign a UFC deal. Xyience would probably sign Rampage tomorrow if he jumped shipped to the UFC and the endorsements for an African American, powerful character like Jackson, who is already a fan favorite, should be a no brainer. Still Jackson probably doesn’t want to fight forever and if he only wants to fight a year or two, Pride may still be his best bet from a financial stand point.
James Irvin is seriously considering a move to 185. Irvin who lost to Stephan Bonnar in the last UFC didn’t have to cut weight for the fight at 205. It’s hard to believe that Irvin at one time fought as a heavyweight at 240 pounds, but that was during his body building type physique days when he lifted like crazy to keep the bulk. Now that he has left the weight’s alone, he didn’t have any problem cutting weight in his last fight and had zero problems making 205. Now the thinking is if he tried to cut weight he could possibly make 185. We shall wait and see if the UFC even wants him at that weight or if they are worried about another Joe Riggs situation. Irvin knows his greatest weakness is his ground game, so he has “hung up the boxing gloves” and is basically eating and breathing wrestling and jiu-jitsu. He will work exclusively with Cassio Wernick, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, over the next few weeks and he has also brought in two time NCAA Champion Wrestler, Mark Munoz, the former all American from Oklahoma State who also wants to fight in MMA as well. WEC Champion Scott Smith is also part of that group.
Speaking of Smith, it looks like he will be making his UFC debut most likely in April. Smith who had an unbelievable fight with Justin Levens in WEC, where he came back and knocked out Levens for the WEC title, will fight in April if he can get healthy. Right now Smith has a staph infection in his elbow and back. He has been taking medication for it and says he will be ready to go. No word on who his opponent will be.
The IFL, the International Fighting League, is the newest MMA league to make noise in the United States. What’s the biggest difference between the new start up league and other MMA organizations in the United States? They already have a TV deal. My friends who work for Fox Sports Network believe a deal is basically done with the organization. The IFL just made a huge signing bringing in UFC front man, Keith Evans as the Vice President of Operations. Another former UFC employee, Steve Tornebene who I also used to work with is also on board. I know first hand how good those two guys are to work with and they will be a huge asset to the company. Needless to say the IFL is definately on the UFC radar and they haven’t had a show yet. The IFL sounds like a great concept, but let’s wait and see what they do before we all get too excited. I will be speaking with the two founders this week and will have my interview with them right here on MMAWeekly.com.
Finally UFC 57 gets set to take place this weekend. Randy Couture will take on Chuck Liddell for a third time and I’m very much looking forward to this fight. It really could go either way and Couture hasn’t been afraid to speak his mind on this fight. If you got the radio show this past week, Couture said many times he looks forward to dropping “the son of a bitch on his head.” Couture seems very passionate about this fight. Liddell on the other hand seems to be gaining more and more confidence each passing day as the UFC champion, which is a scary thought. By the way, Liddell’s knee is 100% according to the Iceman saying the internet rumor is just that a rumor. Catch you next week.