Dana White makes no bones about it.
No matter how chummy they look these days, the UFC president and former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz have a history that includes quarrels, spats and arguments galore.
Ortiz, to White’s mind, made plenty of “bad choices” in years past.
Jumping in at the last minute to face Rashad Evans at Saturday’s UFC 133 in Philadelphia? That wasn’t one of them.
“I think — and I’m not just saying this because we needed someone to fill in on this card — him stepping up and taking this fight isn’t a bad choice,” White said after today’s prefight news conference across from the Libery Bell and Independence Hall in Center City Philly. “At this point in his career, coming off the win he just did … First of all, he gets paid again this quick. He came out of that fight unscathed. He came off a great camp with no injuries and felt like a million bucks going into the fight. And Rashad hasn’t fought in a year and a half. It’s a good fight for Tito to jump in and take.”
Ortiz came into last month’s bout against Ryan Bader on a five-fight winless streak; most expected Bader would finish “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” — and his MMA career — quickly. But Ortiz submitted Bader with an efficient guillotine in the opening 2 minutes, putting a spark behind his staid name.
If Ortiz had lost to Bader, his chances of fighting in the UFC again would have been over. That’s not necessarily the case if he fails to beat Evans — a -400 favorite. But even saving the UFC 133 card with his 11th-hour entry isn’t a golden ticket.
“If he loses, I think I’ll give him some leeway — some leniency — in this fight,” White said. “[But] that’s what’s so crazy about this business. He wins this fight and he’s back on top of the world again. He loses and he’s in the same position. Tito’s not 25, either. Tito’s 36 years old.”