For many hardcore UFC fans, they remember Tito Ortiz as the face of the UFC before it hit the mainstream. It was Ortiz that did all the big interviews, was involved in all the big fights and more importantly dominated all of his opponents. After a bitter contract dispute with UFC President Dana White in early 2005, Ortiz was forced to step away from the Octagon to the dismay of many MMA fans.After a year and a half layoff the announcement came that he was back in the UFC, two questions popped into mind: Did he come back to try and dominate the 205 division again, or use the growing UFC to the sell the Tito Ortiz Brand?
“I’ve been working the last 10 years on making my name recognized in mixed martial arts as a household name. I think I’ve been doing a really good job, thanks to the UFC, of course,” Ortiz told CBSSportsline. “There’s just a lot of things that I want to do as a businessman. I can only be a fighter for so long so I want to make sure I see an avenue of the future for me. “
Clearly it is easier to market a fighter that not only is charismatic, but wins in exciting fashion as well. However, the Tito that returned to the Octagon doesn’t seem to be the same one that left. At the tender age of 33, who knows what the future will hold for The Huntington Beach Bad Boy.
Ortiz is 3-1-1 in his return to the Octagon, which included a controversial win over Forrest Griffin, which many people thought he lost. Two consecutive victories over Ken Shamrock, The World’s Most Dangerous Man…20 years ago. That was then followed by his second embarrassing loss to, then Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell. He proceeded to follow that up with a draw against Rashad Evens, where Ortiz seemed to gas in the final two rounds.
In addition to his troubles inside of the Octagon, Ortiz only has one fight remaining on his contract with the UFC. He will be taking on red hot, Lyoto Machida (12-0) at UFC 84, without an extension from the UFC on the table. And to make matters worse, Ortiz and White have been unable to mend their rocky relationship. In fact, it has only gotten worse since Ortiz’s return.
On Ortiz, White said, “The guy (Ortiz), I’m telling you, he’s not the brightest bulb on the porch. He’s a complete moron and what’s scarier is that he doesn’t think he is. He thinks he’s intelligent; he thinks he’s smart and articulate. So that’s a scary combination.”
To which Ortiz replied, “The jealousy out of his mouth … you can just hear it. It’s just like Dana would say. He actually is a person who is strictly dumb. I listen to that and it just makes me laugh to just hear his mouth say as much as it possibly can say how stupid I am. I guess I’m so damn stupid that I’m afraid to fight for what the money that I thought I’m … worth achieving. It’s one of those things. Especially with Dana; he’s always all about lies.
However, the UFC is where Tito would prefer to end his fighting career. There is no better platform for him to set up his life after fighting. Outside of being the largest organization in MMA, the UFC also provides expanded media coverage, celebrity packed crowds, and exploding popularity.
Ortiz stated, “I always want to take a step forward on my career as much as I possibly can. I have another three, maybe four, years of competition left in me. I just want to make sure the UFC takes care of me. If I finish in the UFC, I’ll be happy.”
Unfortunately, it does not seem that Ortiz will be taken care of by the UFC. In recent statements it seems as though Ortiz already has his mind made up on his plans after the Machida fight. All signs point to him leaving the MMA Powerhouse and uniting with the rising EliteXC/Strikeforce brand.
And all MMA fans would be happy just to see the old Tito again. No matter if it is in the UFC or elsewhere, we want to see him fight with the same hunger and aggression as he did before the UFC became “THE UFC.” I look for Ortiz to make a strong statement come UFC 84, either to prove to the UFC, or to his new employers that he deserves what he is asking for. Will it be Tito Or-Tease?