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Mailbag: Rampage Jackson's deteriorating skills, race and MMA

I totally agree with you that Rampage seems to have regressed as of late. It could be because of the allure of Hollywood, but I tend to think that it has a lot to do with his training with Wolfslair. Bisping is a nice middleweight, but other than him, who have they produced? I think he has subjected himself to inferior training and it is showing in his fights. He is not the same since he got rid of Juanito Ibarra. I think you should get Juanito's thoughts on this for an article or even a podcast.-- Dave, Bridgewater, N.J.

Actually, I spoke with Ibarra just days before the fight and he declined to address Jackson on the record, though I'll say there was some obvious disappointment from him over what could have been. I covered Rampage as close as anyone until the falling out with Ibarra, his reckless driving incident in Orange County and the move to Wolfslair -- at which point he became increasingly difficult to reach. He was at his best when he had one strong captain leading the ship. Both Colin Oyama and Ibarra handled Jackson similarly, that is to say they didn't put up with his nonsense and forced him to work. Left to his own devices, Jackson simply will not do what he needs to do to improve.

Also, I wonder if Jackson is suffering from a physical deterioration. When was the last time he slammed an opponent? Matt Lindland in 2006, I think. That says to me Jackson isn't as strong or explosive as he once was -- because he never needed much technique to pull them off in the past.

As for Wolfslair, they're a professional outfit that can get anyone ready to fight. But based on the trajectory of Jackson's career, it could be argued his time with the London gym hasn't done much to elevate him as a mixed martial artist.

This is in reference to your article "Racial overtones surrounding UFC 114 unnecessary, inappropriate." I completely disagree with your assessment on so many levels.

The only agreement that I can give you is that this may be personally offensive to you and others however that could be said of the entire sport of mixed martial arts, which you could argue is unnecessary and inappropriate, the same could be said about NFL since you mentioned it.

The "black on black crime comment" was a joke and smack talk, meant to be entertaining to the adult audience that watches MMA. The bulk of which understands it was a joke and only loosely related to race.

To conflate it to a greater statement on race issues in America or Sports or MMA or even the UFC is missing the point, disingenuous and turning it into something it's not. If you want to really address racial issues, you should focus your energy on addressing real black on black crime or continued discrimination or poverty or immigration laws in Arizona.

I know you're a sports writer but really this article only creates a distraction from those real issues related to race and gives people an outlet to release their guilt by showing outrage over something that makes them personally uncomfortable about something that is only marginally related to race thus allowing them to avoid having a real conversation about racial issues in our society which is again because that conversation would make them uncomfortable.

I can't even express how tired I am of people getting so up in arms about these types of comments, yet take no action on truly furthering the dialogue on race in America. Part of the reason that it makes you and others so uncomfortable is because race hasn't been truly dealt with in our society.

Bottom line this article is not about race or even Rampage's comment but about your discomfort, allowing you and others to co-op the role of victim as it relates to race. Please leave that role to the real victims of racism and their descendants and instead foster a real conversation about race in our society or better yet do something about it. Regards, black military veteran and descendant of American slaves.-- Roy, Leesburg

No doubt, the editorial was a reflection of my feelings. Based on the response I received, some people agree, some don't. It was a close to even split. Also, I can't agree that some things are justified in the name of entertainment. Just can't. Where's the line drawn?

I just read your piece titled "Racial overtones surrounding UFC 114 unnecessary, inappropriate." I thought it was a pretty insightful and thought provoking piece. I couldn't have agreed more with your assertion that it's inappropriate, sets a bad precedent in a new sport that I love, and would look absurd if it happened in another sport (like the NFL or NBA).

Dana White is a pretty brash and unapologetic personality, so I doubt he would ever "regret" this marketing decision. However, I think he should definitely re-evaluate this marketing angle in subsequent promotions.-- Mike, Sacramento, Calif.

It was interesting during the post-UFC 114 press conference that White was quick to warn Michael Bisping off using a slur word for homosexuals. A word White was castigated for in the wake of a video tirade last year. This isn't about political correctness. This is about right and wrong. That's the prism through which I saw the promotion of Evans-Jackson. In the long-term, MMA will suffer if this kind of language, these verbal indiscretions if you want to call them that, continue.

I agree with your commentary regarding booing fighters. Hearing the crowd booing (either because they don't like a fighter or a fight is "slow") is frustrating as an MMA fan. Many times the more interesting fights involve strategy and positioning, like the Kim-Sadollah fight. Booing simply because two fighters aren't going Tank Abbott on each other seems to be missing the point of the sport.-- Aaron, Phoenix

Chalk it up to a lack of education. Maybe lack of patience. Blood-and-guts fans of MMA will always exist. My hope, over time, is that they come to appreciate the intricate details. The little battles played out inside the clinch. Hand fighting. The nuances of guard passing. My idealism is probably getting the better of me here.

Regarding the fan's treatment of Bisping and Evans, they are treated that way simply because of the way they were portrayed on The Ultimate Fighter shows. (Also, in Rashad's case, people dislike him for knocking out Chuck.) Both of them came across as being arrogant and, quite frankly, a lot of MMA fans (especially newer fans) react merely on a surface level. They don't care how hard they work or how good of a guy they are, they take what they see and it becomes absolute. The fans at UFC 114 where especially harsh, they booed everyone, they booed Noguiera, Tim Duncan, Larry Fitzgerald, and then they cheered for David Spade. I've heard a lot of complaining from fans that the Evans-Jackson fight was boring and that GSP or Jon Fitch are boring fighters. They say wrestlers that dominate on the ground are boring and then they complain about UFC 115 being a boring card even though its full of strikers. You just can't make these guys happy.-- Bo, Austin

You must respect the Spade. Mike Tyson and Snoop Dog earned cheers as well. People are ornery these days.

What I learned from this article: Josh Gross has no sense of MMA or sports in general. Scolding fans for booing someone they don't like? They weren't throwing stuff at him, they were expressing their opinions. Fans pay for their tickets! Fans pay for the PPVs! Everyone knows that Rashad is talented, but he is also very unlikable. He has been saying for a year that he was going to knock Rampage out and then proceeded to dance around and not engage in order to secure a decision. If he kept his mouth shut he probably would not be booed. If you were at the Phoenix Suns game last night, you probably would have gotten angry that the Suns' crowd cheered for them after they got eliminated from the playoffs. How dare they cheer for a losing team! Why can't they cheer for the Lakers?-- Michael, Grand Rapids

I didn't imply fans can't boo. Of course they can. I've booed at sporting events. It just seems that some fighters get placed in certain categories, and Bisping and Evans are examples of that. No matter what they do, fans seem to regard them as "heels," which is too pro wrestling for me.

I watched UFC 114 with friends and was pretty shocked. I hadn't really paid attention to UFC in years -- I actually purchased UFCs 1 through 6 at home years and years ago when I was curious about the bloodsport aspect. After watching 114 I had a question: What exactly does the 'mixed' in MMA mean now? Before it was Karate v Sumo v Streetfighting v Boxing. Now, all the fighters seem to have the same technique and training: A bit of boxing, a bit of kickboxing and a bit of jiu-jitsu -- some have a dash of wrestling. Is the mix now less on clash of styles and more "jack of all trades" fighting?-- Richard Jackson, Houston, Texas

If you miss the old days, watch UFC 118 when James Toney fights Randy Couture.So do you think we'll see Rampage vs Machida?-- @SeanChae702

Sounds like it's being considered by UFC. Bad matchup for Jackson, whose trouble with movement and speed is obvious by now. Machida wins easily.

Do you think Greg Jackson and his lay-&-pray/wall-and-stall tactics are good for the sport? Yeah a win is a win but not w/fans.-- @mmafan1984

You'd prefer Toughman where guys play "Who can take a better punch"? Sorry, strategy is an important part of serious MMA.

Worst main event ever. Rashad doesn't deserve a [title] shot.-- @RobertMenn

Worse than Anderson Silva's recent fights? There wasn't anything wrong with what I thought was a close, competitive, spirited, well-executed bout.

King of heels: Rashad or Koscheck?-- @neebleton

Koscheck. By a mile.

Would you consider Jason Brilz a possible top 10 now?-- @BrayMMA

When my new rankings come out later this week, Brilz will be in the 11-15 range. I was very impressed with his ability to neutralize and endanger Lil Nog.

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