Two of the biggest names in MMA are set to collide later this year when former UFC light heavyweight champions Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito Ortiz square off on Nov. 2 at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, Calif.
Ortiz retired from competition after losing the rubber match of his trilogy with Forrest Griffin at UFC 148 last summer, but in recent weeks, the long-time UFC champion had been hinting at a comeback on Twitter. Though he’s struggled with injuries and managed just a 1-7-1 record over his last nine fights, the flamboyant and outspoken Ortiz remains one of the most recognizable names in the sport, and one of its most polarizing figures, as well.
"I’m back," Ortiz said of his unretirement from Newport Beach, Calif. earlier this evening. "I’ve fought and beaten the very best in MMA history and on Nov. 2, Rampage will be the next huge win on my record."
Much like Ortiz, Jackson has appeared on the downside of his career as of late, his last victory coming against Matt Hamill at UFC 130 in May 2011. Since then, the former Pride standout has dropped three consecutive contests.
"Everybody knows Tito and I have a very long history — he’s a former teammate and friend," Jackson said. "But, I want to be very clear; any sort of friendship we once had doesn’t exist when that cage door shuts."
MMA is as much a sport about personalities as it is wins and losses, and there is no denying that Ortiz and Jackson are two of the biggest personalities in the sport.
Ortiz rose to prominence during the pre-Zuffa days of the UFC, claiming the light heavyweight title at UFC 25 with a unanimous decision win over Wanderlei Silva. He would go on to defend the title five times, a record that was just recently equaled by current champion Jon Jones.
Along with rivals Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, Ortiz helped carry the UFC to new heights during the early 2000s, and his trilogy with Ken Shamrock remains one of the most heated feuds in the company’s history. In recent years, Ortiz’s hot-and-cold relationship with Dana White has kept him in the spotlight, as their tense history leads to the UFC president being asked to comment on every movement Ortiz makes — and White is never at a loss for words when speaking about the long-time thorn in his side.
After becoming a star competing for Pride, Jackson made an immediate impact upon arriving in the UFC. Following a debut thrashing of Marvin Eastman, “Rampage” squared off with then-light heavyweight champion Liddell at UFC 71 in May 2007 in one of the most hotly anticipated showdowns in years.
“The Iceman” was still at the height of his popularity at the time and entered the fight having won seven consecutive contests since losing to Jackson in the second round of the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. But with one crisp right hook, Jackson ended Liddell’s reign atop the 205-pound ranks, earning the light heavyweight championship, and elevating himself to a new level of stardom under the UFC banner.
But after losing the light heavyweight title to Griffin at UFC 86, the charismatic and engaging Jackson started to become disenchanted with fighting.
He abruptly retired from competition in order to take on the role of B.A. Baracus in the movie remake of the ‘80s TV show "The A-Team," walking away from a grudge match with long-time rival Rashad Evans that served as the basis for the two being chosen as opposing coaches on Season 10 of "The Ultimate Fighter."
Jackson eventually returned, dropping a three-round decision to Evans in his first fight back, in May 2010. He rebounded with two victories drew light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 135, where he would go on to lose by submission in the fourth round in September 2011.
Losses to Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira have followed, and throughout that time Jackson continued to voice his frustration with the sport and the fans.
But everything seems to be better now for both (apparently) former disgruntled fighters. They expressed excitement about having the opportunity to compete once again and getting to face one another when this matchup was announced by Bellator MMA officials Wednesday evening.
Though they may be past their prime fighting years, Jackson and Ortiz remain two of the more well-known fighters in all of MMA, and Bellator is banking on their name value — not their recent track records — being enough to entice fight fans to tune in when these two light heavyweight icons do battle on pay-per-view this November.