Over the last few weeks, there has been a heated internal debate at the UFC over whether they should delay Rampage Jackson vs. Rashad Evans in order to allow Jackson to play B.A. Baracus in The A-Team. It appears the side in favor of the delay won the day. The Vancouver Sun reports that Jackson is now in Vancouver for filming:
Rampage will take the role played by Mr T in the 80's TV series. The character of BA Baracus made Mr T famous, and his "I pity da fool" line became a pop culture landmark...[Jackson] was spotted on Robson Street Friday afternoon, signing autographs for fans.
Jackson will star as a coach on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter reality series on Spike TV starting September 19, in which he and Sugar Rashad Evans coach opposing teams of heavyweight MMA wannabes, including former NFL football players and YouTube internet streetfighter Kimbo Slice.
But the movie role will take a toll on Jackson's UFC career, with his main event at UFC 107 rumoured to have been switched to a BJ Penn/Diego Sanchez lightweight title fight. The previously announced Evans/Jackson Ultimate fighter finale will be pushed back accordingly.
It was clear to me yesterday when BJ Penn was added to UFC 107 that Rampage was off. Their plan for this fight is to do a UFC Primetime special, and they wouldn't have BJ Penn in a main event while focusing completely on Rampage Jackson vs. Rashad Evans.
Assuming this is true, I think people are overreacting to the news. Filming apparently ends in late November, the delay probably won't be that long. Rampage and Rashad could fight as soon as the Superbowl show, or in March at the latest. In exchange for a 2-3 month delay, the UFC, Rampage, and Rashad will all benefit from the press that will come with this role. The "A-Team" will be a big budget feature with other huge industry names, and both Rampage and the UFC will get a large amount of media attention.
Personally, I expect the movie to bomb at the box office. But even so, Jackson will get a lot of attention for the role when the movie comes out, and in the off chance the nostalgia hard sell works, he could become an even bigger star and PPV draw. In a perfect world for the UFC marketing machine, Jackson films the movie, beats Rashad, and then challenges for the title around the same time the movie is released. There's no guarantee it works out that way, but the potential benefits outweigh the negative effects of delaying the fight. The "UFC Primetime" special will more than make up for any steam lost as a result of the delay, the fight will still be a huge draw.
In the end, fans lost one big fight on that card and got another. The fight will still probably take place a few months later, Rampage Jackson will get a huge opportunity, and the UFC will likely reap some of the benefits as well.