Big news came at tonight’s Bellator 97 when it was announced that former UFC light heavyweight champions Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz will be throwing down on November 2nd from the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Ca. at Bellator’s first-ever pay-per-view event.
Ortiz had been rumored to attempt a comeback and had hinted at signing with Bellator, but ultimately cooled down the speculation himself. Jackson was reportedly close to signing a deal to box legendary pugilist Roy Jones Jr. at Bellator’s inaugural PPV showing. Dana White warned Bellator to get ready to lose a lot of money on that proposition, but ultimately it served as a ruse to mask the Rampage/Ortiz bout's unveiling.
Jones Jr. was on hand at tonight’s Bellator 97 event, but it wasn't to announce a fight with Jackson. Ortiz came out instead, and had the following to say about his comeback:
"I've fought the best of the best in the world -- I've been fighting for a long, long time. Rampage, too. We've trained with each other, been friends for a long time, but it's time to put the friendship aside. It's about giving the fans what they want, and the best fight possible is going to happen here in Bellator."
It’s tough to say if it's the best fight possible for Bellator is this one, but it certainly is the biggest name matchup they could have put together. Rampage has been much maligned in recent years for showing up to bouts out of shape and looking like a shell of his former self. But he insists he’s re-motivated and training hard to give Ortiz a beatdown come November:
"I'm training hard, I'm motivated. I found my love for MMA again now that I'm with a reputable company that knows how to treat its fighters. It's on! Don't believe everything you read on the Internet -- I don't know how that rumor ever got so big, but, you know, I'm down to fight Roy. This time, I'm going to give the fans what they want, my first fight in Bellator I want it to be an MMA fight ... not a boxing match."
We’ve heard that story from Rampage a time or two before however. Only time will tell if Bellator’s first foray into the PPV market will be a success. Will it be a hard-hitting classic matchup between two former champions, or will it be a letdown consisting of two aging combatants trying to milk every last dollar out of their names?