Quinton Jackson will get the chance to do something he hasn’t been able to do in almost three years, fight for the UFC light heavyweight title. Jon Jones told reporters that he has verbally accepted a September fight with Rampage Jackson, targeted for UFC 135.
No paperwork has been signed but the UFC light heavyweight champion told MMAJunkie.com that he will be fighting the former champion next.
“I’ll be fighting Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson next,” Jones told MMAjunkie.com. “I’m not allowed to discuss the date because I didn’t sign a contract, but yeah, it will be very soon.”
Jones was later asked when he’d be returning to the octagon and he replied, “September.” Way to keep things under wraps champ.
Most would assume that the Jones vs. Rampage championship fight would go down at UFC 135 on September 24. The event is tentatively scheduled to take place in Denver, CO. However, UFC commentator Joe Rogan said on a recent podcast that Rampage vs. Jones would actually take place on September 17. What makes that so interesting is that September 17 is a live Spike TV special and could be one of the last on Spike if a new contract isn’t renewed. Would the UFC give Jones vs. Rampage away for free to a lame duck network or is this a reward for a new deal that hasn’t been announced?
While this fight seemed imminent after Jackson was announced as the winner Saturday night, news about an injury put the fight in jeopardy. Jackson fractured his hand going into the fight and there was some fear that the injury was so severe, that it would take him out of the Jones fight. The Nevada State Athletic Commission ordered Jackson to get his hand x-rayed and could face suspension late November. I assume that Jackson’s hand passed all tests for the UFC to proceed with verbal agreements.
The UFC light heavyweight championship situation has been a mess for Dana White. After stating they wouldn’t fight each other, Jon Jones and Rashad Evans signed to face off at UFC 133. Jones wound up pulling out of the fight due to an injury which required surgery. A few weeks later Jones changed his mind and opted to forgo surgery and let the injury heal on its own. With the number one contender already booked for UFC 133 against Phil Davis, it put the UFC in an awkward position of having to award the title match to someone who wasn’t necessarily worthy of the spot. White said he did consider pulling Evans from UFC 133 at one point to make the fight but instead chose to move on with Jones.
This comes after numerous injuries to the division in the last few years which resulted in several delays and fight changes in championship matches. The current champ Jones, only received his title shot after Evans had to withdrawal from his title shot due to injury. The previous championship match between Machida vs. Shogun Rua also had to be delayed for a year due to injuries to both fighters.
Jackson happens to be the right guy at the right time. Jackson is coming off of his first two-win fight streak in two years. However, it is pretty hard to justify awarding him a fight off of beating Matt Hamill who isn’t considered to be even a top-five fighter in the division. At the same time, it would be even harder to justify giving the fight to Machida over Jackson with Machida’s last win coming against a guy also not in the top-five, and a previous loss to Rampage. At any other time Jackson would have needed one more quality win to get the shot but injuries dictated a different course for the championship.
This would also be Jackson’s first championship shot since losing the title in via decision to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86. Jackson’s journey back to the title should be a reminder that nothing is guaranteed in the UFC. On paper one would have expected Jackson to have had a rematch by now but his legal issues following the Griffin fight and his A Team sabbatical kept him out of consideration for the fight.
I can’t say that sitting here on June 3 that I am real excited about this fight. Jackson isn’t the same fighter who fought with reckless abandon in Pride FC and looks like an easy fight for Jones on paper. On the other hand, give Rampage a few months of interviews and I may feel differently come September.
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