(Get casting on the horn and find out if Forrest Griffin is busy this winter.)
By FIGHT! contributor Larry Pepe
Who can forget Dana White’s famous, “Do you want to be a fu*#!ng fighter,” speech during the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter? You know the one, when Dana puts the guys in check by explaining that they need to focus on fighting and not get sidetracked by the fame that might come with it.
How ironic that four and a half years and nine seasons later, Dana probably should have reenacted that speech. Only this time it should have been with Season 10 TUF coach, Quinton Jackson, after “Rampage” made the decision to abandon his headlining role at December’s UFC 107 in favor of channeling his inner Mr. T to play B.A. (“Bad Attitude”) Baracus in the upcoming feature film “The A-Team.”
“Rampage” isn’t the first big name fighter to score a significant role in a major film. He’s just the first to blow up a major PPV card built on three months of television programming because of it.
Randy Couture joined the biggest action stars in the biz in Sly Stallone’s “The Expendables” and Gina Carano will play the lead in Steven Soderbergh’s spy thriller, “Knockout.” But they didn’t put their desire to act in front of any prior commitments to MMA. Neither did GSP, BJ, Rashad, Forrest or a host of other fighters who have appeared in films and television shows. If Roger Huerta wants to leave MMA altogether to pursue his thespian goals, more power to him. He fulfilled his contract. Good luck to you, Roger.
But “Rampage”’s situation, sorry, I mean B.A.’s situation, is different. A lot different.
UFC 107 was to be the culmination of months of drama, trash talk and disdain that we’ll watch unfold this season. Now we don’t even know when they fight will happen because B.A. will need to finish shooting, get back in shape and have a full camp. The film is due to be released on June 11, 2010, so don’t be surprised if marketing 101 lands it in that time frame. Can you say anti-climactic? Whether February, June or some other time, the TUF-fueled momentum is gone. Bad for the fans, the UFC and the poor guy who’s been trying to edit all the references to settling the score in December out of the show. Thanks, B.A.
Then there’s the issue of honoring your commitments. I’ve heard a report that B.A. never signed a contract to fight Rashad. Really? Are you telling me that the incredibly business savvy trifecta of Dana White and the Ferttita brothers booked a major PPV event in Memphis, Tennessee without a commitment from the one main eventer who calls Memphis home? Seriously? They planned on promoting this mega grudge match for three months with every weekly episode of TUF without an agreement? Sorry, I just don’t buy it. And signed agreement or not, when B.A. turned down Machida to coach on TUF, he knew, like we all knew, that he’d be facing Rashad in the first PPV following the conclusion of the show.
And what precedent is set by this latest turn of events? What if GSP grew up watching “Spiderman” and director Sam Raimi decides he’d make a perfect lead in the fourth installment of the film but he’s set to headline UFC 111? How does the UFC say no after letting B.A. walk from 107? Wouldn’t GSP ask why it was permissible for B.A. but not him? Might some bitterness set in? It’s a very slippery slope. And as MMA continues to grow, those opportunities are likely to come up with greater frequency. Is fighting a priority or simply expendable once the bigger, better deal, (in the fighter’s mind) comes along?
I recognize that there is a potential benefit of bringing more fans into MMA after they see what I’m guessing will be a solid performance by Rampage on the big screen.
Still can’t get with the move.
Neither can his boss, who went on the Dave and Mahoney Show just two days before the TUF season premiere and confessed that he isn’t even talking to B.A. right now.
“I hate it, I hate it so bad I can’t even tell you how bad I hate it. I’m so mad at Rampage over this. And for him to do this to me and to pull out and do this goofy A-Team movie man, I’m not happy about it all…They’re not paying him jack. He’s giving up literally millions of dollars to play Mr. T. If you think he’s going to go in there and say, ‘I pity the fool,’ and he’s going to become a huge serious actor off that role, gimme a friggin’ break…Rampage is somebody I consider a friend, he put me in a bad position and I’m not happy about it. He hurt himself, he hurt us. I don’t even want to talk to him right now. Lorenzo’s talking to him, not me.”
Dana doesn’t sound like a guy who made a decision that the exposure of “this goofy A-Team movie” was worth screwing up his main event at UFC 107, does he?
And he has every right to be livid.
Let’s not forget that when B.A. went on a rampage barely a year ago, the promotion was about as supportive as they could have been. Dana flew in to help his friend bailed him out of jail and then helped him get back on his feet. And his spot on the roster was never in question. Thanks, UFC. Next, they put him on the biggest card of the year against Wanderlei Silva, the guy he desperately wanted redemption against after suffering two devastating losses to him in Pride. He got his redemption and a big payday. Thanks, UFC. He’s also been put on TUF twice even though he’s more of an entertaining character than a great coach. What am I saying? He’s neck and neck with Ken Shamrock for worst TUF coach ever. (“Get up, Abe!” Groundbreaking.) Thanks, UFC. He’s loaded his bank account with the promotion’s money and they’ve given him the very worldwide platform that led A-Team producers to his door. Thanks, UFC.
The UFC deserved better, much better, from B.A. And so did the fans.