As someone who was “Team Rashad” years before Team Rashad formally existed, no one wants you to succeed more than I do. Which is why I feel compelled to write you this letter.
If you want to be remembered as not simply a great fighter, but a legendary fighter, with a UFC Hall Of Fame enshrinement to reflect that, you absolutely need to do things:
Move down to middleweight, and return to Greg Jackson’s camp.
First, the middleweight matter: You know and I know that neither you, nor anyone else in the UFC light heavyweight division for that matter, will ever beat Jon Jones. Athletes like Jones, regardless of the sport, literally come along once or at most twice a century. So if you stay at light heavyweight, you will spend the rest of your days as a fighter battling for second place – and we all know what the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. said about second place.
By contrast, at middleweight – a weight class to which many if not most observers believe you are better suited anyway – you can become a champion once again; and if you do, you will join Randy Couture and BJ Penn as the only multiple-weight-class title-holders in UFC history, guaranteeing your admission into the UFC Hall Of Fame. Merely becoming a two-time light heavyweight champion – certainly possible if Jones moves up to heavyweight in the not-too-distant future – would not similarly assure your induction.
Now, to the issue of Greg Jackson: With the losses by Melvin Guillard and Michael Johnson at UFC 155, your current camp is now a combined 8-12 in the UFC. Yes, I know many out there refer to the Blackzilians as an elite MMA camp. Well if this is an “elite MMA camp” with that record, then Wayne LaPierre is the mortal enemy of the Second Amendment, and Rachel Maddow is cheating the Tea Party movement out of its dues.
But let me say that I have nothing but the utmost respect for Mario Sperry. He was an amazing fighter; then again, Bart Starr was a pretty amazing quarterback, who how shall we say, left a lot to be desired when he subsequently became head coach of the team he led as a player to five NFL championships, including victories in the first two Super Bowls ever played.
Yet it is not only the Blackzilians’ won-lost record that is troubling: Their ranks include two fighters who have tested positive for banned substances; two fighters who have been arrested for domestic violence; and one who was fired by UFC President Dana White not once but twice for tweeting repulsive rape jokes. I know you, Rashad. You are better than that – a lot better; indeed, it was the utterly false accusations that were leveled at your character while you competed on The Ultimate Fighter that made me such a devoted supporter of yours to begin with.
Therefore, you are in with losers, and bad people. You need to be with winners, and good people.
And I am well aware of what transpired at Jackson’s nearly two years ago – and there was no excuse for it, since essentially the same scenario played out with Mark Hominick and George Roop two months before what I have taken to labeling the “Rashadgate scandal” first broke. Therefore no one in that camp can claim ignorance of how to handle it.
Just the same, forgiveness carries with it tremendous healing powers. As Laurence Sterne famously observed, “Only the brave know how to forgive; it is the most refined and generous pitch of virtue human nature can arrive at. A coward never forgave; it is not in his nature.” Never hesitating to fight opponents who are much larger than you are throughout your career, you are nothing if you are not brave, Rashad. You can demonstrate that you have the mental courage to match your undeniable physical courage by forgiving Greg Jackson for what was basically a simple misunderstanding that got blown hideously out of proportion – and you would no doubt gain myriad fans you do not have now if you make this move.
The people you are training under at present can never do anything for you, as their record clearly indicates; but Greg Jackson, who made you a champion once before, would be well within himself to do so again. And not for nothing, but with the recent departure of Brian Stann from his camp, Greg Jackson’s top middleweight is now Buddy Roberts – Buddy Roberts! Who do you suppose Greg Jackson would regard as having a better chance of bringing the UFC middleweight belt home to Albuquerque: You, or Buddy Roberts?
I only want what’s best for you, Rashad. That is all I have ever wished for you, and ever will wish for you. This is why I cannot remain silent any longer.
So please, do the two things I have outlined above – and you know that they both are the right things – and keep your rendezvous with destiny as a true legend, whom people will still be talking about long after both of us have departed from the scene.
Your fan and friend always,