Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's tumultuous time with the Ultimate Fighting Championship came to an end two weeks ago when the former UFC light heavyweight champion officially signed a multiyear deal with Bellator MMA, Spike TV and Total Nonstop Action wrestling.
Jackson never truly felt at home in the UFC. He was originally signed to fight fan favorite Chuck Liddell, who had already avenged his other two losses at the time and needed a victory over Jackson to complete the cycle.
''I came to the UFC as an outsider," said Jackson, who knocked Liddell out in 2007 to win the UFC belt. "It's no secret to me that the UFC only signed me for that Chuck Liddell fight back in the day. And the people that really know me know I was a very fan-friendly guy until I kind of like went to the UFC. It kind of dulled my senses to a lot of fans when they booed me for knocking a guy out and egged my house and stuff like that."
Despite the early issues with fans, Jackson was soon embraced. He defeated Dan Henderson to unify the UFC and PRIDE belts. More than 6 million fans watched the fight on Spike, which remains the network's most-viewed fight to date. He lost the title to Forrest Griffin in his next fight. His frustration mounted, so he announced a brief retirement in 2009 and shot the "The A-Team" movie in 2010.
''When I did the movie 'A-Team,' that's how (UFC president) Dana (White) and I, we kind of like fell out, and it caused a whole bunch of problems," Jackson said. "... I signed a disclosure where I can't talk about it."
Animosity aside, Jackson won four of his next six bouts to earn a second title shot against Jon Jones in September 2011. Unfortunately for Jackson, his career spiraled downward after the loss versus Jones. He sustained several injuries, including before his final two fights against Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira.
Following the January loss to Teixeira, Jackson weighed his options before he ultimately decided to sign with Bellator. He said he looks forward to the company's tournament format and should be recovered from his knee injury in time to fight this fall.
''I lost a lot of love for MMA" Jackson said. "I'm not going to lie. I lost a lot of love for MMA back when I was in the UFC. Honestly, they just killed it. They drained it. But this new deal got me so excited, and it instantly brought the love back. It's hard to even explain the way I feel right now. I'm just real happy to be a part of this team."
UFC 161 REACTION, OTHER NOTES
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans beat former Strikeforce and PRIDE champion Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 161 last weekend. The victory snapped a two-fight losing streak for Evans and reaffirmed his status as a title contender.
Fan favorite Roy Nelson looked sluggish in his loss to Stipe Miocic, which cast doubt on his future. The fight was the last on Nelson's UFC contract, and he will now become a free agent. UFC president Dana White, whose recent contract offer to Nelson was rebuffed, will sit down with Nelson's management and attempt to re-sign him.
-- Dillard "Smokin' Joe" Pegg replaced Jeff Curran in the main event of Friday night's Resurrection Fighting Alliance 8 and will now face Sergio Pettis for the promotion's inaugural flyweight title.
Pettis, the younger brother of UFC star and former Strikeforce lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, is 7-0 and enters as the favorite. But Pegg, 5-1, has won all four of his fights in 2013, including one on June 7.
''I didn't hesitate when the RFA called me, because headlining this card and fighting for a title against Sergio Pettis is the chance of a lifetime," Pegg said. "If I beat Pettis, not only will my confidence be sky high, but it also shows that win on national TV. This is a huge opportunity for my career, and I am excited, in shape, and ready to take on Sergio Pettis."
The event, which will be held at The Rave/Eagles Club in Milwaukee, can be seen live on AXS TV at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. The remainder of the card can be found at www.rfafighting.com.