Steve Sievert from the Houston Chronicle wrote a pretty good article on Tito Ortiz and his future in the UFC. Towards the end of the article, UFC president Dana White comments on Ortiz. It’s clearly the most favorable thing he’s said about the former light heavyweight champion in quite some time and he also indicates that the company is interested in re-signing Ortiz. Ortiz will have one fight left on his current contract following his fight against Rashad Evans.
“Do I need Tito Ortiz to continue to grow my business? No,” said White. “Tito’s always an interesting character, but Tito’s a good fighter, and he deserves to be in the UFC. I can see Tito Ortiz finishing his career in the UFC. We’re always going to butt heads, but as long as he’s one of the top fighters in the world, he’ll stay in the UFC.”
After Ortiz’s fight with Evans it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the UFC to schedule Ortiz’s fight. My guess is that they will put if off as long as possible to retain exclusive re-negotiation rights for an extended duration.
Based on White’s comments, my opinion as to whether Ortiz will re-sign with the UFC has changed. I was initially doubtful but now I would say the chances are 50/50. White sounds as though he’s willing to put his differences aside and when I interviewed Ortiz, I really tried to play up the fact that he’ll have other options when it comes to a new deal. He didn’t bite and said his preference was to keep fighting for the UFC in spite of his differences with White. I realize he tossed out the names of K-1 and Bodog during an interview with Pro Elite.com but that may have been in response to White’s continued onslaught of negative comments.
Ultimately though, it will come down to money and what Ortiz feels he’s worth and what the UFC feels he’s worth. If it’s close, they’ll probably reach a new deal. If it’s not close, Ortiz will wait for his contract to expire and field offers from other promotions.
Ortiz still has a lot of drawing power but it will diminish if he doesn’t fight well in his last two UFC fights. Promotions like Bodog and EliteXC still might be willing to pay him on his past reputation as they look to one up the UFC somehow. You’d think EliteXC would have a lot of interest because if they’ve signed Sokoudjou, then they will need to bolster their light heavyweight division. They really don’t have many guys who could step in and pose much of a challenge.