Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz was spotted at the weigh-ins for “EliteXC: Heat” yesterday, which immediately got people talking about EliteXC being the next home for the coveted, yet controversial, free agent. Ortiz hinted that that might be the case, however he wouldn’t be able to compete for the next six months as he is due in for back surgery on Monday.
“I’m getting surgery … for my lower back,” Ortiz told MMAJunkie.com. “I’ve had a problem for the last five years, so I’m finally going to get the surgery done. I’ll be out for about six months, but I’ll be back to fight for another six years. I’m really excited.”
Ortiz went into further detail about the procedure, and how he expects for the surgery to help bring him back to his old championship form.
“I have a bulging disc between L4 and L5 and S1, so they’ve got to go in and fuse it,” Ortiz stated. “(It’s) the same thing that Nate Quarry got. So I get it done, and I’ll be able to wrestle the way I used to wrestle.”
Assuming that his surgery goes successfully, Ortiz will be out of action for at least six months, however that doesn’t mean that a deal can’t be made for his services before then. In fact, Ortiz stated that he is in serious talks with EliteXC and something could be finalized within the month.
“With EliteXC and CBS and Showtime backing me on this, it’s a possibility that we might get something finished before the month’s over,” Ortiz said. “And the UFC actually has the option to match [any offer]. If they match it, fighters are going to be even more happy because I’ll do it with the UFC. But if I don’t do it with the UFC, I’ll do it with EliteXC and CBS.”
Ortiz is one of the most controversial fighters MMA has ever known. So when an organization signs him, they are also bringing along all of his baggage. However, a major benefit to signing a fighter as polarizing as Ortiz is that the drama stirs up ticket sales and Pay-Per-View buys.
“I look at the whole brand itself,” stated a confident Ortiz. “I’m a business man. I’ve got to look at myself as not just a commodity, but a business itself — Tito Ortiz brand…I think it’s just a percentage of all the way around what my name is going to be in — merchandising, pay-per-view, gate, everything,” Ortiz said. “I want a piece of it just because I’m putting the butts in the seats (and getting) the pay-per-view buys.”
Ortiz has always seemed to see more value in his “brand” than most MMA organizations out there do, and perhaps that is why he has had such difficulty landing the groundbreaking deal that he has been seeking since hitting the free agent market almost four months ago.
“The brand of me the last 11 years, the competition I’ve been doing, I feel like I got my ass kicked the last 11 years. I’ve set some historical marks, and now I’ve set some goals for fighters in the future. Myself, I defended my world title five consecutive times. I’ve done a lot in the last 11 years that I think a company needs a name like myself to succeed. And EliteXC may be that company.”
At the tender age of 33, Ortiz hasn’t won a significant fight in over three years, and was 0-2-1 in his last three UFC outings. At his point in his career, many feel that Ortiz is no longer interested in fighting, but is only using MMA as a springboard for his other business ventures, particularly his clothing brand, Punishment Athletics.
“I just added a bunch of new stuff to Punishment Athletics clothing,” Ortiz said of his prized clothing line. “We’ve got a bunch of new kids stuff, and we added a bunch of women’s clothing also. Our brand is growing. We’re not as big dogs as TapouT is just yet, but maybe me coming to CBS that will happen.”
Now does that sound more like a hungry MMA fighter talking, or a savvy business man?