MMA Goes Mainstream: Bad News

Chuck Liddell has taken a break from fighting to join the cast of the reality television sensation Dancing with the Stars. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has taken a break from fighting to join the cast of the new A-Team remake. One grab at mainstream publicity has UFC President Dana White ecstatic. The other has him pulling his metaphorical hair out. Is their a difference between the two men’s hiatus? To steal a phrase from a half-term Alaskan Governor, “You Betcha!”

Liddell put on his dancing shoes after two brutal knockout losses, one to Rashad Evans and the other to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. At 39, he was simply a past his prime fighter. After 11 years in the cage he needed to, in his words, “give my brain a rest.”

“Chuck doing Dancing with the Stars is great,” UFC President Dana White said. “He’s focused and he weighs like 212. He doesn’t weigh 212 the week of the fight. So he’s taking this more seriously than he takes the fighting.”

Chuck joins a fraternity of professional athletes and fighters who chose to try their hand at dancing. The reality show is actually a surprisingly rigorous test of balance, cardio, and yes, skill. For Liddell it’s a good distraction from the dangerous listlessness that might otherwise lead him to the club and to the all you can eat buffet. These kinds of distractions could prove troubling for an older fighter with a penchant for partying. The show has actually giving him something to focus on as he contemplates his future.

“I’m happy that he’s found something to focus on,” White said. “I think everybody knows how I feel about Chuck Liddell. He has nothing left to prove. Other than he can dance.”

Rampage, by contrast, isn’t the beloved and respected elder statesman representing the sport of MMA in the public eye. He’s a fighter in his prime, still right in the mix for the UFC’s Light Heavyweight title. To make matters worse, Jackson committed to coach the record-setting tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Millions of fans will watch the show, which builds up a fight between Jackson and fellow coach Rashad Evans.

“Rampage is an active fighter,” White said. “An active fighter that took that spot on The Ultimate Fighter. He can say he did it for me, but there is a commitment there to fight at the end of the show. He couldhave fought in that fight and then went and done seven movies for all I cared. He could have took four years off and done whatever he wanted to do. He was obligated to take that fight… Rashad is sitting on the sidelines now. It affected a lot of things.”

Rampage is just one of a host of MMA fighters to make their mark in the movies. Randy Couture and Don Frye have both recently finished big budget films, while Strikeforce stalwarts Cung Le and Gina Carano have stepped away from the cage at the height of their powers for a career in pictures.

“Hollywood is a pain in my ass sometimes,” White said. “The reality is, you get these Hollywood agents that start talking all this smack about what these guys are going to get. And these agents deliver about four percent of what they talk. They usually don’t deliver. They’ve got him (Rampage) thinking that he’s going to make this movie for nothing, and then in the sequel he’ll make $20 million.

Fans can still see Rampage Jackson Wednesdays on SPIKE’s The Ultimate Fighter. They just won’t see him in the cage again until March at the earliest. Dancing with the Stars debuts tonight on ABC.


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