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 November 2nd at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, California.
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 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.
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.
But 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 reigning light heavyweight champion Liddell in one of the most hotly anticipated showdowns in years.
"The Iceman" was still at the height of his popularity at the time, and has won seven consecutive contests since losing to Jackson in the second round of the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. 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 Forrest 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. He rebounded with two victories, and was positioned opposite light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 135, where he would go on to lose by submission in the fourth round.
Losses to Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira 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 former disgruntled fighters. Both expressed excitement about having the opportunity to compete once again, and the chance to face one another when this match-up 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.