UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson defends his belt on Saturday night against Forrest Griffin at UFC 86 in Las Vegas. Not only is the future of both star fighters on the line, but so is the direction of the sport's "money division."
And with the entrance of middleweight king Anderson Silva into the 205-pound class pending, the value of fights in the division continues to rise.
"The (light heavyweight division) is so stacked right now. What's going to happen in the light heavyweight division is going to depend on what happens Saturday night," stated Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White on Thursday. "Obviously if Forrest Griffin wins the title, there's a ton of different things that could happen. If Rampage Jackson wins it, there's a ton of different things that could happen.
"It depends on who wins. There's a lot riding on the light heavyweight division on Saturday night."
White indicated that the UFC middleweight champion's arrival at 205 isn't a one-trick pony. He feels that Silva wants to continue defending his current belt, while working to capture light heavyweight gold at the same time. And for the first time in the promotion's history, he's okay with that. Never before has a UFC champion been allowed to chase another belt in another weight class.
"He wants to hold both the 185 and the 205 pound belt and he wants to defend them both. Normally I won't let guys do stuff like that because it's just... stupid. I'll let Anderson Silva do it," White told MMAWeekly.com.
But first and foremost in the division, there's the matter of Saturday's championship bout at UFC 86 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
"Forrest Griffin is the American Dream, man. He literally didn't want to do ("The Ultimate Fighter"). He came out, tried out for it, and then had second thoughts. We had to get on the phone with him and get him out there," explained the UFC president.
"He had basically made up his mind, he was going to retire. (He) comes on the show, wins it, and fights the most significant fight in UFC history, which I 100 percent believe we might not be here today having this conversation if that Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar fight didn't happen."
For all his appearances as a laid back, homebody, White says Griffin is quite serious when it comes to fighting. "He's a guy who has really taken this thing seriously. He showed in his fight against Shogun how serious he is, how talented he is, and how bad he wants it."
He has just as much esteem for his current champion, too. "I bought the WFA, basically just to get Rampage Jackson's contract," stated White.
"He came over here and his first fight was against Marvin Eastman, knocked him out. Then went in and knocked out the most famous and one of the best fighters ever in UFC history in Chuck Liddell and did it in literally seconds. Then Dan Henderson, the only man in Pride to hold two belts at the same time. He went five tough rounds with him and beat him," White proclaimed.
"And this weekend, he faces Forrest Griffin in an amazing fight..."
So how this fight measures up in the landscape of the division is simply... big. With all of the fighters crowding the light heavyweights, and the coming addition of Silva, this fight will lay the foundation for near term.
"This thing sold out and we're doing closed circuit," said White. "This is a big fight."