Not long ago, UFC 161 was one of the hottest tickets in the sports world. Not only was the event headlined by a dynamic title fight, but the stacked undercard featured several exciting light heavyweight matchups as well.
When Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao withdrew from the main event due to injury, there were still two intriguing light heavyweight fights to carry the card. Those fights featured four solid contenders with Dan Henderson versus Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua versus Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
On Sunday, however, the UFC officially announced Nogueira suffered an injury and withdrew from his fight against Rua.
With another superstar withdrawing from the event, any interest remaining in UFC 161 disappeared. Now, the UFC is in desperate search of an opponent for Rua to save this crippled pay-per-view event, which is less than two weeks away.
With the list of available light heavyweight contenders running thin, the UFC should seek out a former champion who is certain to generate fan interest. The fighter who best fits that bill is Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Jackson and Rua have a history. The two fought in the Pride promotion in 2005, with “Rampage” being knocked out by way of soccer kicks to the head. Upon both fighters entering the UFC in 2007, MMA fans began clamoring for a rematch, but that rematch never happened.
Jackson recently left the UFC after losing three consecutive fights. All three losses, however, were against some of the best light heavyweights in the world. His skills did not appear to have significantly diminished since his last fight with Rua, and he frequently exhibited his remaining striking power.
Another fight against a dynamic striker like Rua will certainly be a fan-pleasing slug-fest.
After his most recent loss to Glover Teixeira, Jackson declined to seek further employment with the UFC and has been searching for a big payday from other promotions. Almost six months have passed and Jackson remains unemployed while his popularity continues to wane.
The timing might be right for a return to the UFC. If Dana White comes forward with a big offer, Jackson will get paid while regaining celebrity status. Most importantly, however, fan interest will return to UFC 161.
It would be a win-win situation for everyone.