*Wrote this for my Asian-American literature class on racial representation in pop culture and figured why not. It’s basically about the Rampage/Evans/Jones dynamic. The loose connection to 2012: Rampage and Evans both fought Jones and are active in 2012 and these issues certainly came up. And it’s 10:45 am PST, so there.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is an African American mixed martial artist. Although he is a former UFC light-heavyweight champion with excellent boxing and defensive wrestling, he is more known for being a clown with heavy hands, beloved for slamming opponents into oblivion and charming antics like dry-humping female reporters, howling like a wolf and hyping fights with other African American fighters as “black on black crime.” While Rampage has become one of the most adored fighters in the UFC, Rashad Evans, a black mixed martial artist and former light-heavyweight champion is routinely booed. Evans attributes this to his refusal to pander to the fans and has accused Rampage of being an Uncle Tom, putting on a minstrel show to appeal to the predominantly white UFC audience.
Current UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones lies on the other side of the spectrum. Jones is vilified for being too arrogant, too phony. Evans even went as far as to call him a “fake ass white boy.” Whereas Rampage is beloved by fans and dismissed by black fighters like Evans for playing up his blackness, Jones is criticized by both for not being black enough, or being too white. Jones has dismissed these charges. Being an amateur wrestler, Jones has heard these accusations before, but normalizing such sentiments doesn’t absolve the problematic elements of them. The Rampage/Evans/Jones squabbles beg the questions, what is blackness, exactly, and why is it always represented in static and singular terms?
Evans has criticized Rampage for making a caricature out of himself and profiting from tropes that subordinate blacks and making blacks look bad in general and has simultaneously criticized Jones for channeling his inner Booker T. Washington to appease white audiences. Whether Rampage or Jones is consciously playing a role or not is up for debate, but the fact that both are black men in a primarily white industry put their actions under considerably more scrutiny. A white fighter does not have to worry about her or his actions defining the white race. A white fighter does not have to worry about how black audiences or Asian audiences perceive them. Echoing W.E.B. Du Bois’ concept of double consciousness, blacks do not have that luxury. As such, I can’t fault Evans for feeling the way he feels. Rashad Evans is painfully aware of how white audiences have historically consumed the Rampage persona and subservient nature of appeasement (whether Jones is playing a role, is again, up for debate) and the ultra-visibility of extraordinary humans. Recognizing these perceptions, Evans has set himself up as someone very different from Rampage and Jones despite the visually glaring similarities. For this, Evans has been labeled pretentious and arrogant. He’s seen as an agitator, bringing up race in a post-racial world.