Although the scrap between bitter rivals Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans was packaged with every pre-fight promotional effort available, the main event at UFC 114 thoroughly failed to live up to the unrivaled hype.
The arch enemies were originally slated to meet at UFC 107 after completing their assignments as coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights,” however Rampage opted to turn his back on MMA and accept the role of B.A. Baracus in the movie remake of “The A-Team.”
Despite promising to unleash some vicious “black-on-black crime,” Rampage openly admitted the 15-month layoff drastically affected his performance. Unfortunately for those that shelled out $44.95 for the pay-per-view broadcast, Rampage’s aggressiveness was the only way he and the fans could have won that night.
Although Evans has showcased improved stand-up over the past few years – particularly in his back-to-back finishes over former champs Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, and specifically when he stunned Rampage in the opening ticks – everyone knew that if Evans were to beat Rampage, it would be in the very same “boring,” yet effective, fashion he did.
After receiving an unprecedented amount of hoopla, a highlight reel knockout was clearly the only frosting that could have iced this cake. That was no more apparent than when UFC president Dana White took the mic at the post-fight press conference to address the unusually high number of A-list celebrities sitting Octagon-side.
“I’m happy everything came together. [Rampage] made a big movie. It’s a great movie, it’s the big summer hit and we still got to do this fight,” White somberly said. “This fight had a lot of buzz this weekend. There were a lot of people who normally aren’t, as far as I know, into MMA that were here.”
In addition, the controversial promoter was perplexed fans rained down boos during another one of his main events. It’s the third time in the company’s last four PPV broadcasts their featured attraction ended in uneventful unanimous decision fashion, much to the ire of fanatics and White alike.
All three disappointments featured the sport’s biggest studs in UFC title holders Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva, as well as Saturday night’s co-stars.
“People were booing at stupid stuff tonight. Guys aren’t going to run across the ring and just start throwing haymakers,” White said of the uneducated audience. “There’s strategy, guys have gameplans. You don’t just run in like a train wreck into each other.
“And the crowd was really fired up tonight … the referee would say, ‘Come on, let’s go,’ the [fighters] wouldn’t even get to each other and the guys were [already] booing.”
Following Rampage’s latest performance and his recent membership into “The UFC Don’t Pay Me Enough Club” – alongside fellow former UFC champions Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz – it’s becoming more apparent that “conservative” gameplans may become the norm among the game’s elite.
Now that MMA has emerged as an imposing worldwide presence, the stakes have never been higher for the top dogs. With lucrative movie and endorsements deals, parlayed with the fact that this “second” revenue stream is serving as primary income for some of these athletes, how could you possibly blame them?
Carmichael Dave, a longtime mixed martial arts advocate and one of the few in the media with White’s cell phone number, posted the following on his Twitter Memorial Day evening – a comment White would like fans to quickly forget.
“I never ever thought I’d say this: I might be burning out a little on MMA,” the Northern California sports radio personality Tweeted.
The pressure is now on White to rekindle that flame that was burning white-hot not too long ago. It certainly doesn’t help that his next major show, UFC 115 on June 12th, features a lukewarmly-received light heavyweight fight between Chuck Liddell and Rich Franklin.
Thankfully, “The Biggest Battle in Heavyweight History” will be going down when heavyweight king Brock Lesnar and interim champ Shane Carwin meet at UFC 116 on July 4th weekend. That blockbuster matchup is guaranteed to provide the fireworks for an explosive return to form for MMA … hopefully.