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5 Oz. Feature: Do the UFC and Tito Ortiz really need each other?

646_ubzscnomuc_vlarge.jpgThere’s an existing sentiment that the UFC and Tito Ortiz will both be making a mistake if they decide to part ways. It’s a sentiment that our very own Adam Morgan agrees with. It’s sentiment that many other pundits on the Internet agree with. It was also a sentiment that I once agreed with as well.

But no longer.

That’s right, I no longer support the idea that the UFC and Tito need each other. In fact, I think both principals will be better off without each other. It’s been a bad marriage for quite some time and everyone will be much happier with a divorce.

I can’t speak for other countries, but in the U.S., divorce is usually seen as a negative. And when children are involved, it truly is. But if both parties are unhappy with one another, why continue to perpetuate a mistake?

When a couple splits, it can be upsetting. But in many instances, both parties actually become much happier. Or at the very least, they move on and survive just fine without one another. Look at the Jennifer Aniston/Brad Pitt divorce. It’s not like either one has had to spend a lonely night since their marriage collapsed. Pitt is doing just fine with Angelina Jolie and Aniston is still making movies and is having no trouble finding a date.

After Tito Ortiz makes his final UFC appearance on May 24 at UFC 84, the UFC will continue to make hundreds of millions of dollars and Ortiz will continue to get paid millions to fight.

Not only will both survive, they’ll be better off with each other.

In the case of the UFC, it’s tough for a promotion to have to shell out a high six-figure guarantee to a fighter who no longer is a viable title contender. It’s definitely possible to draw and not be in title fights, but UFC president Dana White has gone out of his way to try and devalue Ortiz as a marketable fighter. Pay-per-view draws do not grow on trees and White erred by allowing his personal animosity for Ortiz to effect the UFC’s bottom line. After you factor in guarantees, Ortiz is believed to be making over a million dollars per fight. What’s the point in shelling out that kind of money for a fighter you promote with great reluctance?

Ortiz is no longer a focal point of the UFC’s marketing plan and likely never will be again. Yet he’s making the same as he was before and there’s no way he’ll accept a pay cut in order to perform in a less prominent role. He only makes sense at his current pay scale if the masses perceive him to be a threat to recapture the UFC light heavyweight title. However, if he can’t even get past an up and comer like Rashad Evans, it’s going to be hard to buy into him as someone who can bring Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s reign to an end.

What the UFC will lose out on is the millions of dollars it could have made by promoting an Jackson vs. Ortiz match or a rematch between Ortiz and Wanderlei Silva. However, it’s hard to put Ortiz back into title contendership if he hasn’t beaten a top contender. If he could beat someone like Lyoto Machida, a match between Ortiz and the winner of July’s title fight between Jackson and Forrest Griffin could draw a pretty strong buyrate. But there aren’t many people who believe Ortiz is going to be able to walk away with a “W” against Machida. You could try and set the bar lower for Ortiz as far as a fight to build him back up, but that’s a lot of money to pay someone to take on an opponent that isn’t a draw, such as a James Irvin. Not to mention, if you look at the current strength within the UFC’s light heavyweight division, there really aren’t any tomato cans. Ortiz would be favored over Irvin, but would you bet your house that Ortiz would win?

Ortiz vs. Silva is a matchup of two iconic light heavyweight fighters, but what’s the point in building up that fight if Ortiz isn’t signed to a long-term contract? The UFC has committed a lot of money to Silva but he already has lost once since returning to the UFC at UFC 79 in December. The promotion can’t afford to have him drop to 0-2 against an opponent who is in his walk match.

In recent years, the biggest feud for Ortiz that the UFC has promoted has been his personal war with White. The problem is, this isn’t pro wrestling and Zuffa has spent a lot of time and money building up a feud that will never have a real payoff.

If the UFC as a company no longer believes in Ortiz, why continue to do business with him?

For Ortiz, he’s done a magnificent job of marketing himself. He’s become a brand within a brand and has managed to stay somewhat relevant even though White has tried gone out of his way to kill his career. Ortiz is wise in that he hasn’t allowed himself to become dependent on the UFC’s marketing machine in order to stay in the public eye. He’s constantly booking his own interviews and his team has the ability to get him high-profile television appearances on network programs such as “The Apprentice” without any assistance from Zuffa.

He remains a draw but is no longer the drawing card he once was. While White is partially to blame, a lot of the blame must also be placed on Ortiz. His fighting style has become stagnant. His ground and pound style is dated in that he rarely sets up his shots. He was once a takedown master but his shot range has deteriorated, allowing his opponents to better defend against his shot. While Ortiz’s standup has gotten better in recent years, he’s still not a knockout threat and his jiu-jitsu ability is nothing special. As a fighter, Ortiz has evolved very little in recent years which is a problem when you’re an athlete in a sport in which the state of the art seemingly changes every six months.

Ortiz possibly can hang with the Machidas, Jacksons, Griffins, Keith Jardines, Chuck Liddells, and Shogun Ruas of MMA, but can he beat them? I’m not so sure and I don’t think I am alone in that regard. He needs to be able to pick and choose his spots more wisely and he’ll never have that freedom so long as he’s in the UFC.

Let’s face facts, Otiz isn’t getting any younger and injuries have affected his performance. He may not have a lot of matches left and as such, he needs to follow in the footsteps of Frank Shamrock and only accept fights against opponents that he can draw against. In order to be able to promote himself in such a manner, he needs more creative control over his career. He’s not going to get that control from the UFC.

There’s also the issue of money. Ortiz wants a raise and the UFC has said no. You’re only worth what someone is willing to pay you, but in the case of Ortiz, the grass truly could be greener as there is good reason to believe that he could command more on the open market that the UFC is willing to pay. Affliction is rumored to be throwing away major money for its fighters and you have to think that a fighter such as Ortiz would be perfect for their business model. Both Ortiz and Affliction are UFC outcasts and an alliance between the two seems like a natural.

EliteXC is also another potential destination. They have a network deal with CBS and they eventually want to be a player on pay-per-view. A fighter such as Ortiz can help them in multiple ways. Whether they currently have the money needed to land someone like Ortiz remains to be seen, but if they can leverage their relationship with CBS to bring in additional capital, a shopping spree might not be out of the question.

Japan could also be an option. DREAM is paying top dollar for U.S.-based fighters such as Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Eddie Alvarez, and Nick Diaz. With no disrespect intended to the three aforementioned fighters, Ortiz brings a lot more starpower to the table.

What I foresee happening is Ortiz following the path of Renato “Babalu” Sobral in that he signs non-exclusive contracts with multiple promotions. By subscribing to such a philosophy, he will have total control over his career and will be in a position where he can logistically fight any fighter not under contract to Zuffa. Big-time money matchups against the likes of Shamrock, Kimbo Slice, and Fedor Emelianenko could all be on the table.

The only reason for the UFC to retain Ortiz is to keep him away from the competition. But after watching many promotions overspend themselves into bankruptcy, Zuffa could perceive Ortiz to be a red herring that brings a promotion to its knees. The only reason for Ortiz to stay with the UFC…. well, I can’t think of any.

It’s clear to me now that the UFC and Tito Ortiz don’t need each other. They just need to move on.

13 COMMENTS
  • Barry says:

    I agree that the UFC and Tito don’t need each other. Tito hasn’t done a whole lot lately for the UFC. But whoever lands Tito should benefit greatly from his ‘star’ power.

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  • UFC69INTX says:

    WELL SAID

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  • MARCO says:

    I love Tito, always have, all I can say is, it’s about damn time. He doesn’t need them and they don’t need him. DW is a douche bag that doesn’t know how to pay his fighters and will ultimately be the one responsible for the downfall of the UFC kingdom. He should keep his mouth shut and stay in the background like a real President. Be honest does anyone REALLY like DW? Besides the fact that he isn’t shy about his feelings, he’s what? A DOUCHE BAG!

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  • king mah mah says:

    Tito should stay with the ufc long enough to have a rematch with “shitty rashad evans”!

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  • Donk says:

    I disagree, the UFC controls the worlds top LHW and there isn’t a string of top match ups for him anywhere else. There’s Frank Shamrock, but that’s where the line ends. If Tito wants to be up there with the best in the world then he should stay and cement his legacy.

    But i like Tito’s his strategy so far. In game theory if you have a negotiations type scenario and you have a high value in the negotiations then you maximise your chances of getting what you want with a hard ball strategy, especially if the guy on the other side likes playing it tough as Dana does. His value right now is #10 according to MMA-Weekly, and will either fall slightly or go up after his fight with Machida.

    I think that if Tito wins the fight, Dana won’t have a choice but to pay the man a good price and Tito’s approach will pay off. But if he looses then Tito’s value will fall and the hard-ball strategy will not have been favorable in him getting a good price, and he will most likely either have to accept a cut in pay, or go somewhere else…

    I think Tito has played it smart so far, if he wins, then he’ll most likely stay because he’ll get the $$ and stay with the big boys. But if he looses he’ll be stuck as the UFC won’t offer him what he wants, and most likely neither will anyone else. What happens after the fight is going to be just as interesting.

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  • Ryder Die says:

    I agree with everything that you said in this article but I still want to see Ortiz fight some of those guys. I think that sometimes USA promotions think too much about the win and loss instead of two great fighters in the ring putting on a great fight win or lose. I understand that you need to win more than lose but I think we as fans still would pay to watch Ortiz vs. Silva or Ortiz vs. an older Lidell or even another matchup against Evans. For the record I do agree with your article and I think that it was well put.

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  • Handover Fist says:

    The talent pool of this sport gets deeper by the day. 18 months ago Tito was the #2 LHW in the UFC. If he losses to Machida you could argue he’s not even in the top 10.

    If Tito wants to continue to be a big fish he will likely need to find a smaller pond.

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  • DPK says:

    I agree with this article as it seems most of the readers have. Tito’s can just see what the market has to offer. He controls his own destiny, win and get big $$, lose and get not as much.

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  • mike wolfe says:

    Win or lose, White should just ignore Tito. Not call him about a new contract or comment on the fight or further discuss him. Just shrug and say that he has nothing more to say. Guys like Tito feed on the attention they get from talking, and if nobody cares or listens it drives them nuts.

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  • Jason Brewer says:

    I don’t see Ortiz going to the Affliction promotion as they are a direct competitor to his clothing line so I don’t see him being a good fit with that promotion Elite seems more logical as they need him and are likely willing to be one of the main mouthpieces of their organization…which I think we can all agree would be necessary for Ortiz to sign with any promotion.

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  • Ortiz is totally being set up to lose against Machida who is basically undefeated. Ortiz was by the way, a goof on the Celebrity Apprentice.

    Ortiz has not improved his game and in my opinion is not going to do so well against fighters who really get into this sport and work on their weaknesses.

    Politics man, isn’t it just everywhere?

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  • Brandon says:

    It’s so funny how everyone is so focused on the most recent fight and not Tito as a whole. Think whatever you want about Tito he is not down and out. Your comments written in the article make me believe you came on the MMA scene way to late and have not been around the block. Even the fact that you put Kimbo Slices name in the middle of Shamrock and Fedor makes you lose all creditability.

    Nice try… Tito is and always will be one of the greatest fighters. Do you train with him to find out what he is working on and how much blood he puts into training? No would be my first guess. You sound like Dana White. Based on the picture you posted I think Tito will be just fine in his last UFC fight. Good luck Tito and don’t let the little men hold you down.

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  • rhys says:

    couldnt care less where tito goes, his careers not going anywhere thats for sure.

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