A scant few weeks ago, Dana White figured Tito Ortiz’ UFC career was over.
The former light heavyweight champion hadn’t won in five bouts, and was facing an up-and-comer in Ryan Bader at UFC 132. On paper, it was a rout. And White, the UFC president, assumed it was the MMA swan song for the aging Ortiz.
“I, to be honest, thought that was going to be Tito Ortiz’ last fight,” White said on a conference call with reporters today. “That was going to be Tito’s last fight ever in MMA. He was probably going to retire after that.”
White was wrong. Ortiz hammered Bader, submitting him via guillotine choke 1:56 into the first round.
Ortiz was back. And he’ll be back in action far sooner than expected.
The Huntington Beach Bad Boy is stepping in for the injured Phil Davis to meet Rashad Evans in the main event of UFC 133 on Aug. 6 in Philadelphia, the UFC announced this week. It’s barely a one-month turnaround for Ortiz — exceptionally short in MMA.
Davis, an undefeated youngster at light heavyweight, pulled out of the fight after a Monday MRI revealed a knee injury. Covering his bases before Davis officially withdrew, White called Ortiz.
“He said he had some personal stuff going on,” White said. “He didn’t want to jump back into training camp.”
Then White turned to Lyoto Machida, who knocked out Randy Couture in April at UFC 129. Machida agreed to take the fight, but negotiations broke down over pay. White said Machida’s camp demanded “Anderson Silva money.”
“I told him when he accomplished all the things Anderson Silva has accomplished, maybe he’ll make Anderson Silva-type money,” White said.
“Lots of crazy things happen in this business,” White said moments later. “But usually when stuff like that happens, you know the guys it’s going to happen with. Before you make that call, you know what the call’s going to be like. I did not expect that from Lyoto Machia, no.”
White said Ortiz called him Tuesday, asking if the slot had been filled. After White told him it had not, Ortiz accepted the fight yesterday.
White said Evans — a top contender at light heavyweight — is the arguable favorite at UFC 133. He’s faster, a better wrestler and younger. But we’ve heard that before.
“It’s all the same s*** you said about Ryan Bader,” White said. “I said the same thing about Bader. He was too big, too strong, too fast, too explosive, his hands were better than Tito Ortiz, his wrestling was better than Tito Ortiz. And Tito almost knocks him out, then submits him.”
Evans had originally been linked with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in the fight. Davis, a Pennsylvania native, took the fight after Jones pulled out with an injury of his own.
White said an Ortiz win wouldn’t automatically put him first in line for a title shot, but would vault him into the “top three.”
“If Tito beats Rashad on Aug. 6, how could anybody deny it?” White said. “He beats a top-10 contender, then comes in and knocks off what many believe is the top contender for the title. It would definitely put Tito into the mix. I wouldn’t say he’s a No. 1 contender after this fight, but he’s top three.”