One of the bigger stories gaining momentum this week has been that of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and his distaste for the current state of the UFC light heavyweight division. Complaining about having to fight a handful of wrestlers recently, Jackson’s litany of grievances about the promotion have gotten to the point where it’s highly doubtful that Jackson will stay with the company after the final fight on his contract is up.
He’s made it clear he wants to fight outside the UFC, in spite of the fact that it’ll most likely pay significantly less than what he could make in Zuffa, because he wants to be treated better. He wants better matchups and not against wrestling oriented fighters more desiring to take the fight to the ground than to “put on a show.”
Zuffa ought to oblige him in that regard by releasing him from his contract.
Right now Jackson is still at his peak as a fighter at 33, though there are more days that will be better behind him instead of in front of him athletically. He’s at the tail end of his physical peak and now is entering the years when things like muscle memory and experience matter as much as raw physical ability. Being a crafty veteran matters more the older you get, of course, because you have to compensate for athletic abilities declining in older ages in any sport.
Jackson has at least another three to five years of being a top ten fighter in the division if he so chooses; he’s been around long enough and is a good enough fighter to be able to be highly compensated in the UFC for a long time. And while he could probably avoid wrestlers, as long as he doesn’t try to make another title run for the most part, Jackson is looking towards Hollywood as a solution to his problems.
It happens to people in the WWE on occasion when they want to leave Vince McMahon behind for stardom and don’t succeed because they’re not on Raw every Monday night; it’s the Hollywood Fallacy at work. People tend to think that during the moment that a marketing machine is behind them that they can walk away and get all the offers being flung at them.
Jackson wants to fight in between films, complaining that he turns down films all the time because of his fighting career being more lucrative. Jackson is one of the better compensated fighters in the division and did draw one of the biggest pay per view buy numbers for a non-title fight against Rashad Evans. Jackson has made on average between $200-400 thousand a fight in declared income. Not including sponsorships and pay per view bonuses, as well, fighting is lucrative for Jackson in a way that a film can’t be at the moment.
And it may never be, either.
No film is paying him roughly the same amount or more for the time it’d take to have a training camp and fight. We know this because he’d be acting full time if they were. And one imagines that he’d like a career path closer to that of Cung Le, taking a fight as it fits in his schedule as opposed to two-three times a year. But even Le, the highest profile star in MMA who’s tried to cross over into film, is nothing more than what could be a fourth or fifth lead at best. He’s successful as a working actor, of course, but he got movie parts as he was fighting and not because of it. Even then it was his extensive martial arts background that earned his way into Hollywood and not his MMA career.
Jackson earned the “A-Team” film role in part because he was a fairly well known fighter. The film didn’t set the world on fire, of course, but the one thing about the film was that Jackson didn’t emerge from it a star. There wasn’t a critical buzz about him being an action hero nor was there a groundswell of fans of the film wanting to see what he did next.
He was competent in the role but he didn’t emerge from it a star.
When Quinton Jackson isn’t fighting for the UFC anymore, instead taking the occasional fight seen by less people than a UFC Facebook fight, his film career isn’t going to be as spectacular as he thinks it could be. Getting a generic goon role or a minor supporting character part may be as good as he’s getting now. Those are generally the types of higher profile but lower paying roles that get you in the film but not on the poster. It will be tougher the further away from the sport he is because he won’t be associated with the biggest brand in the sport.
It’s why Randy Couture has managed to see his profile rise but not exorbitantly so; Couture may not be fighting anymore but he’s still at UFC events, et al. He’s still associated with the UFC and that carries weight. Even then his highest profile role this year will be as a supporting character lost in the shuffle in an Expendables sequel; Couture popping up on a UFC broadcast, even in the crowd, is something tangible in terms of how he’s viewed.
Jackson fighting Hector Lombard on an Australian Fighting Championship card doesn’t carry the same water as Jackson against anybody on a UFC card. Neither does Jackson going to Moscow to fight Fedor on an M-1 card, either.
Jackson being a high profile fighter and having a certain level of recognition because of it is a good chunk of the reason why he was most likely chosen to be B.A Baracus originally. You don’t have to establish a character as being a tough guy nearly as much if the actor playing him is actually a tough guy. And a good chunk of that is because he fights in the UFC, for better or worse. Anyone can be listed as a fighter, it seems, but having those three letters attached to your name as in “Former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson” gives you credibility that can’t be bought.
Between films, though, if Jackson lists that he’ll be fighting someone for a promotion few have heard of that it feels less significant. As if Jackson doesn’t have what it takes and is now taking fights for the money, ala Ken Shamrock, when the truth is far from it. Imagine Jardine/Jackson 2 on a Nemesis Fighting Championship card and the connotation is never good; one or both guys are presumed to be washed up, nothing more.
In Jackson’s case it’s far from the truth, of course, but perception matters.