One of the most polarizing figures in UFC history will return to the octagon. A month after being banned from the UFC Fan Expo, Tito Ortiz is now welcomed back into UFC. Dana White also announced the return of Vitor Belfort at UFC 103.
The news ends a long and hostile feud between UFC and Tito Ortiz. Ortiz left the UFC last year after fulfilling his contract. The breakup was not pretty. The return of the former light heavyweight champion comes as a big surprise for many in the MMA community.
Things were rocky from the start of his last UFC return. However, tensions really hit an all-time level after the fallout of the Ortiz-Dana White boxing match. Ortiz backed out of the match, while White continued with the event and made a television special out of it. From that point on, things got very ugly throughout the rest of Ortiz’s UFC tenure.
[adinserter block=”1″]Ortiz was a big fish on the free agent market last year. I have to admit, I expected someone to scoop him up fast. Ortiz had recently talked about Strikeforce and Affliction. Ortiz even talked about a match with Fedor at one point. For numerous reasons, none of those deals ever materialized.
Ortiz’s options slimmed big time when Affliction closed its doors. Other than a new startup, it was unlikely he would receive big money elsewhere. The deal with UFC seemed to be a necessity at this point. For UFC, it is a no lose situation to bring back the Huntingdon Beach Bad Boy. Whether he is still the fighter he once was, he is going to draw money and that is the bottom line.
Ortiz’s last UFC stint was a mixed bag. One could argue that he declined in skill. However, other than Chuck Liddell nobody dominated him. Ortiz went 3-2-1 in his last UFC run. Ortiz’s last bout was a loss to current UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. Ortiz arguably fought Machida harder than anyone ever has. It was a loss, but it was far from a dominating win from Machida.
What do you do with a Tito Ortiz in 2009? There are several good options. For one, there are a ton of rematches that fans would love to see. Ortiz’s win over Forrest Griffin was very controversial. Rematches with Rashad Evans, Machida, Wanderlei Silva, or Vitor Belfort are also very juicy possibilities.
There are also some great possibilities for new matchups. Ortiz against either Rich Franklin or Dan Henderson would do good business. A superfight with Anderson Silva could do UFC 100 type numbers. A match with Rampage Jackson would surely do tremendous business. The interviews and hype alone could turn this one into a record breaker.
There is always the Ultimate Fighter. Ortiz turned around his image as a head coach in season three. Ortiz was arguably the best coach in the history of the show. I’d bring him back on the show for a season. Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, or Forrest Griffin would be great opposing coaches. I would not be surprised whatsoever to see Ortiz back on the show in seasons 11 or 12.
Tito announced that he will fight before the end of the year. No official date was given on the press conference call. Dana White did mention that they are working on a Marc Coleman fight The Coleman fight would be a big disappointment in my opinion. Coleman has been a rather boring fighter since returning to UFC.
In other press conference news: Franklin-Hendo 2 is off for UFC 103. Rich Franklin will now fight Vitor Belfort at UFC 103. Belfort returns to UFC for the first time in over four years. The fight will be a light heavyweight bout. I think Rich Franklin is in big trouble. Dan Henderson “is next in line” to challenge Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title challenger. Both of these fights are much more appealing than Henderson-Franklin 2.
Dana also had a lot to say throughout the call about signning Fedor Emelianenko. “Co-promotion with M-1 is “impossible, it’ll never happen.” But “the deal’s not dead. They can call me. Trust me, we did everything to make a Fedor Emelianenko deal happen. It’s insanity for them to turn down a deal like this. I was f**king miserable when Fedor Emelianenko turned down UFC deal. These guys don’t want to make a deal. If they do, call me.”
As reported, it seems that it all comes down to M1’s co-promotional demands in making the deal. “The only sticking point is the co-promotion. Otherwise, we gave them everything.”
[adinserter block=”2″]Dana took a shot at boxing on the call. “Everyone wants to see Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, boxing promoters won’t give them that fight. UFC gives fans fights they want.” I find that statement a little ironic, considering that every MMA fan in the world wants to see Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brock Lesnar. If Manny vs. Mayweather happens first, Dana is going to have a lot of egg on his face. I’ll go out on a limb and tell you that I expect to see Manny vs. Mayweather way before I see Brock vs. Fedor. I hope I am wrong. – Thanks to MMAFanhouse for the quotes.
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Tito Ortiz’s autobiography This Is Gonna Hurt: The Life of a Mixed Martial Arts Champion by clicking here.