With rumors continuing to swirl that Tito Ortiz is close to signing a deal with Affliction, it got me thinking: is Ortiz really worth all the money that he says that Affliction is going to pay him? Sure, he was a no-show at the presser today and nothing official has been announced regarding his signing with the company but all signs point to him having a contract with them at some point soon. So is he worth the money?
If what Ortiz said to SI.com is true, that he will be getting a contract like no other fighter has ever seen before, then it’s obviously going to be very big money. Now, granted, Ortiz has been known to exagerrate in his past, but exagerration or not, it’s going to be big dollars. He is a hot free agent, there’s no doubt about that. He’s a huge name, a very good trash talker who knows how to hype a fight, and he’s helped build the sport of MMA into what it is today. He knows how to sell pay-per-views and that’s something that Affliction needs help with. I realize these things.
But what assets does Ortiz bring to the table that they’re willing to pay him so much money? Fighting acumen? Hardly. Ortiz’s days as an elite level fighter are well behind him. He’s lost a step in his explosiveness and his striking has always been mediocre. He’s a fighter, just like Matt Hughes, whose game has never evolved along with the sport. In modern MMA you have to be well rounded just to get by. You can’t rely on one thing anymore and Ortiz has always heavily relied on his wrestling and still does. When that’s not going well for him, he has nothing else to fall back on. He’s one dimensional. Is it worth it for Affliction to shell out big dollars for someone who is one dimensional and past their prime?
On top of that, Ortiz hasn’t won a fight since 2006 when he beat Ken Shamrock twice. And he hasn’t won a meaningful fight since he eked out a decision over Forrest Griffin in April of 2006. And now he’s supposed to fight Babalu Sobral in his first fight with Affliction? What if he loses? I understand that Ortiz has a large, dedicated, and loyal fanbase who support him win or lose, but at some point you have to win to keep the fans behind you. People don’t like supporting losers. That’s just the way things go in sports in general. Why are the New York Yankees so popular? Because they win championships? The same goes for any sport. People are attracted to winners, not losers. Especially losers who are past their prime. I’m not saying that Ortiz is a loser at this point in his career. He still has the potential to turn things around. But if he doesn’t start winning, and soon, then his reputation as a top draw may be in jeopardy.
Also, who is Ortiz going to fight? After Sobral, who is there? Antonio Rogerio Nogueira? For hardcores that may be a great fight, but that’s not a fight that Affliction can sell to the casual Ortiz fan. It’s certainly not a fight that could headline a pay-per-view. Past Sobral and Nogueira, the light heavyweight talent pool is extremely shallow in Affliction. Mike Whitehead? Edwin Dewees, a natural 185 lbs. fighter? These are not marketable matchups. The best heavyweight talent is in the UFC and it’s going to be hard for Affliction to find meaningful fights for Ortiz at 205 lbs.
For Affliction, this is a huge risk-reward situation. Ortiz is a large risk, not only from a promoter’s standpoint, but also as far as his performance in the ring goes as well. If he starts to win again and is able to draw pay-per-view buys and help Affliction out on that end, then the deal is worth doing. However, if they dump a bunch of money into a fighter who can no longer put victories together and can no longer be a top draw, then what is the point? To have a big name to sell to the masses for one or two shows? Affliction should be thinking long term about their business plans. Ortiz is not a long term figure. To spend as much money as it sounds like they’re going to spend could very well backfire on them. I don’t blame them for wanting to go out and get Ortiz because the upside with him is very large. But the downside is anything but miniscule.