When Bellator first wanted to do a pay-per-view event, the main attraction featured former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The event fell through when his opponent and fellow former UFC light heavyweight titleholder Tito Ortiz was forced off the card and out of the fight due to a neck injury.
Jackson then entered into the Season 10 Light Heavyweight Tournament with the hopes that he’d reach the finals and face rival “King Mo” Lawal, who was on the other side of the bracket.
“Bjorn Rebney (Bellator CEO) came up with the plan of having Rampage and King Mo fight in the tournament. We all kept our fingers crossed that they’d win, and they did. They each won two fights and now they’ll fight on this card,” Spike TV president Kevin Kay recently told MMAWeekly.com.
The stakes are high for both fighters as they head into the tournament finals with a title shot hanging in the balance. Lawal made his Bellator debut in January 2013 carrying with him a lot of hype and expectations. The former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion knocked out Przemyslaw Mysiala in the first round of the fight and the opening round of the Season 8 Light Heavyweight Tournament. But the 33-year-old stumbled in his next outing, losing to Emanuel Newton in the tournament semifinal round by knockout.
Lawal rebounded by winning the Bellator 2013 Summer Series Light Heavyweight tournament with knockout wins over Seth Petruzelli and Jacob Noe setting up a rematch with Newton for the interim 205-pound title. He lost to Newton for a second time on Nov. 2, 2013, by unanimous decision.
Jackson made his Bellator debut two weeks after Lawal lost to Newton the second time with an impressive first-round knockout of Joey Beltran. At Bellator 110 on Feb. 28, Jackson and Lawal were victorious in their opening round Season 10 Tournament bouts setting up a showdown between the two rivals.
“Those guys don’t like each other. There’s a tremendous amount of animosity there. And there’s a lot at stake when you think about it,” said Kay.
“I will say this is the biggest fight of Mo Lawal’s life because he has had a tough time in Bellator. He’s performed well and then he’s had some problems. He needs to put on a great show. He needs to win or else I don’t know what happens to Mo,” said Kay bout Lawal.
“Rampage also has a lot at stake. Rampage is a guy who wants to have a movie career. He wants to do reality TV. You’ve got to win fights in order for those things to happen. Nobody wants to do those things with a guy that loses fights. So there’s a lot at stake,” added the Spike TV president.
Following his win at Bellator 110, Jackson and Lawal engaged in a heated verbal exchange inside the cage.
“I’m the man in Bellator now. I took your spot,” Jackson screamed at Lawal before a shoving match broke out. If he wins, Jackson’s comments were accurate. If he doesn’t, he’ll be in the position Lawal was after losing to Newton the first time.