One of the most recognizable fighters in MMA is fighting for his UFC career. Tito Ortiz‘s next fight could be his last in the UFC according to UFC president Dana White. White is adamant that if Ortiz does not win his next fight in March vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira that he will be cut.
This is yet another long chapter in the off again/on again Tito Ortiz-Dana White relationship. Ironically if not for Ortiz, Dana White may not have become the most successful MMA promoter in history. White entered MMA as Ortiz’s business manager two decades ago. Since then the two have had several public spats which have resulted in several Ortiz departures from the UFC. Unlike his last couple of “time outs”, at Tito’s age and physical condition the next hiatus is going to be his last.
Tito Ortiz vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will headline UFC Fight Night 24 on March 29 live on Spike TV. White said when he announced the fight, “This is a must-win fight for Tito Ortiz. Everyone knows that Tito and I have had a rocky relationship, but he’s been with us since we started this company, and we’re on good terms now. This is the biggest fight of his career. ‘Lil Nog’ is ranked in the top 10 in the world, and a win puts Tito back in the mix.”
[adinserter name=”366 right”]Tito Ortiz signed a six-fight deal and rejoined the UFC in July 2009. Ortiz said at the time that he was going to be returning at 100% for the first time in years. Ortiz’s first scheduled fight was a setup win against Mark Coleman at UFC 106. Unfortunately for Tito, Coleman pulled out of the fight out due to injury and was replaced by the much tougher Forrest Griffin. After dominating the first round, Ortiz tired and Griffin was able to pull out a split decision at UFC 106. It has been downhill for Tito ever since.
Tito’s return to the UFC didn’t get much better. Ortiz returned to The Ultimate Fighter as a coach to oppose Chuck Liddell with a fight after the season ended. The “healthiest” Tito Ortiz the UFC ever saw wound up pulling out of the fight and was sent home from the show by Dana White. A far cry from Ortiz’s first stint as a coach which saw his popularity turn around 100%. Ortiz would lose his next fight against ironically a fighter he coached that season Matt Hamill by unanimous decision. There was heavy speculation that a decisive loss would have ended Ortiz’s UFC career. Fortunately for him the UFC prez saw enough to give him one last shot.
I like Tito Ortiz but a lot of that goes back to watching Tito fight in his prime which was over a decade ago. Quite frankly Tito Ortiz has been more successful marketing himself as an elite fighter than actually fighting like one. Records don’t lie and Tito Ortiz hasn’t won a fight since October 2006 and that was against a well past his prime Ken Shamrock. Ortiz is 0-4-1 in his last five fights. Take the fights against an aged Ken Shamrock out of the mix and Ortiz hasn’t finished anyone since a first round TKO stoppage against Elvis Sinosic in 2001. Yes that is 10 years since Ortiz last won a fight by TKO, KO, or submission against anyone not named Ken Shamrock.
This is a fight designed for Tito Ortiz to win. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira hasn’t exactly been impressive since entering the UFC. After dismantling Luiz Arthur Cane, he has gone 1-1 with both fights going the distance. He looked uninspired in his last two fights unlike Ortiz who just looked outclassed against Hamill and gassed out against Griffin. A lackadaisical effort by Lil’ Nog against someone with heavy hands like Ortiz who will be even more inspired fighting in front of a huge audience on Spike TV is exactly what Ortiz needs to win this fight.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]At some point Tito Ortiz should go into the UFC Hall of Fame. Ortiz was one of the first breakout stars of the UFC after the original three-headed monster of Gracie, Shamrock, and Severn. Ortiz went an impressive 15-5 in his first 20 fights in the UFC. Ortiz’s fight against Frank Shamrock at UFC 22 is regarded as one of the greatest fights in MMA history. As UFC light heavyweight champion Ortiz had five successful title defenses in a row. Ortiz’s third fight against Ken Shamrock on Spike TV drew an astounding 5.7 million viewers which was unheard of for MMA in 2006. The huge audience is credited by many as one of the keys to UFC’s turnaround.
I still think there is a place for Tito Ortiz in the UFC. Unlike other fighters like Chuck Liddell who fight past their prime, Ortiz has not embarrassed himself at all in the octagon. All of his losses went the decision, including taking Lyoto Machida the distance when Machida was thought to be one of the best fighters in the world (including almost submitting him at one point). He still puts on a show but at the cost that the UFC is paying Tito Ortiz he isn’t delivering. Win or lose I’d hate to see the Huntingdon Beach Bad Boy finish his career anywhere else but according to the president just keeping it close isn’t going to cut it anymore.
It will be interesting to see if Dana White, unlike Vince McMahon is a man of his word when he tells his fans that someone is actually fired for losing his next match. Or will we see the UFC debut of Juan Ortiz?