Bellator MMA's serpentine journey onto pay-per-view has been a bumpy one, and the promotion almost hit a brick wall one day before Saturday's gala debut.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson nearly was pulled from the main event of the Southaven, Miss., fight card and was fined by the Mississippi Athletic Commission following an altercation with the head of the sanctioning body at Friday's weigh-in.
After Jackson shoved Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal during their ceremonious face-off once they'd stepped off the scale, commission chairman Jon Lewis approached "Rampage" backstage to reprimand him for the onstage behavior.
Jackson didn't appreciate the way Lewis spoke to him, and he went right back at the commissioner. "It came down to the point where I thought there was going to be a physical altercation between me and him," Lewis told SI.com on Monday. "As far as me and the staff who were in the room with me, we felt that there was going to be fists swinging in there right toward us."
The fighter and the commissioner were quickly separated, but not before a fine was levied against Jackson. Commission regulations allow for up to 25 percent of a fighter's purse to be surrendered for accosting an official, Lewis said, but after Jackson apologized a few minutes later, the commissioner agreed to reduce the fine to 5 percent. (MMAFighting has reported it to be $10,000.)
It could have been much worse, not just for Jackson but for Bellator, which already had seen a November PPV fall apart after a headliner was hurt in training and then Saturday's card lose its original marquee bout to injury. Bjorn Rebney & Co. almost were without a replacement main event, too, as Lewis considered pulling Jackson's license after the fighter's outburst.
"I'm the boss of the commission, and I can handle it," said Lewis, whom the commission website lists as "a competitor in MMA and Toughman contests" and an owner and instructor at a judo and jiu-jitsu academy and a boxing school. "If it had happened with any other commissioner, [Jackson] probably would have been taken off the bout. He was so unruly. I'm not going to let anybody do that to my staff."
Jackson acknowledges his part in the altercation -- "I did snap at him and verbally said some stuff I shouldn't have said," he told SI.com -- but believes the whole thing could have been avoided if Lewis had not provoked him. "He should have talked to me in a manly manner," the fighter said. "I'm a grown man, just like him. The way he addressed me was very rude. I was just cutting weight. I didn't have my wits about me. I hadn't ate in 24 hours."
Neither Jackson, Lewis, nor a Bellator official would specify a dollar amount for either the fine or the purse, but "Rampage," who went on to score a unanimous-decision win over Lawal on Saturday, claimed that the amount deducted from his check was 10 percent, not 5 percent. "I'm not going to say the amount," he said, "but it's a lot of money for having an altercation with someone who was out of line, who thinks because he's got a fancy job and a fancy title, he can talk down to you. I feel like I was wrongly fined, and I'm pretty upset about it to where I don't want to ever fight again in Mississippi as long as I live."
Lewis, for his part, is not dismissing the possibility of a return by the native of nearby Memphis. "I would welcome him back, no hard feelings or anything," said the commissioner. "But I would expect him to be on his best behavior."