Ovince St. Preux is one of the hottest light heavyweights in the division. After defeating Patrick Cummins two weeks ago in the postfight press interivew the Knoxville native put the UFC on notice telling them he wanted to fight on the UFC Fight Night card in Nashville on August. 8th. Living just two and half hours away a fight in Nashville would be like home field advantage for St. Preux.
There are several guys in the division that would make sense like Jimi Manuwa, who is ranked just behind OSP in the UFC’s official rankings. But if you ask fans in Tennessee who they want to see fight St. Preux, the majority will tell you it’s Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson.
After spending a year and a half with Bellator Rampage picked up a win in his return to the UFC Saturday. After the event the former champ told reporters he wanted to fight guys who had defeated him in the past like Shogun Rua and Jon Jones. As a former champ he’s earned the right to ask for those fights but his home state needs fans to show up in August and Ovince St. Preux is the perfect opponent to make that happen.
The Tennessee Athletic Commission has been under attack by politicians and will radically change next January. Director Jeff Mullen, who ironically enough trained Rampage years ago, will be relieved of his duties as his salary was deemed an unnecessary expense by lawmakers. UFC Fight Night 74 in August will be Mullen’s last big hurrah before lawmakers overhaul the Commission. If fans can pack the arena it will back up what the Director has been telling the politicians for years, that MMA is viable in Tennessee.
A Rampage Jackson vs Ovince St. Preux fight would do well on any other show and could be a viable co-main event on pay per view or a televised fight on Fox. But it would get lost in the shuffle on another UFC card. At UFC Fight Night 74 in Nashville, in the middle of the state Tennessee would be buzzing and fans would fill up the Bridgestone Arena.
For the past few years there has been a rivalry between east and west Tennessee. Each region thinks they have the best guys and occasionally you see someone from Memphis fight in Knoxville or vice versa. Usually it’s a pretty big deal.
Nate Landwehr is a local legend due to his fights against guys in East Tennessee. ‘The Train’ knocked out one of east Tennessee’s top amateurs, Billy Mullins in his pro debut in 2012. Landwehr also beat local favorites Adam Townsend and Chris Wright on their home turf. When you go to Pigeon Forge and Knoxville people know who Nate Landwehr is, and they don’t like him.
Wade Johnson is a west Tennessee guy. Technically he’s from Arkansas but he’s fought the majority of his fights in Memphis. This year ‘The Hammer’ has faced Drew Kennedy and Craig Johnson from east Tennessee. Johnson beat them both by decision in Memphis and now the guys in Knoxville think he go lucky and want to fight him.
Fighters are competitive by nature. And just like everyone else, they have a pride that comes with living in a region. St. Preux vs Rampage would be on another level in Nashville. It’s east Tennessee vs. west Tennessee. It’s the former champ against the new guy who is trying to get to the belt. It’s two of the top fighters in the world who just happen to be from the same state. It’s also a fight that Tennessee needs to prove to lawmakers that mixed martial arts has a future in the Volunteer State.
However you look at it Ovince St. Preux vs. Rampage Jackson makes since. It will make the UFC dollars and cents. It’s all in Dana White’s hands now.