Rather than tackle a challenge befitting his status and legacy in the UFC Light Heavyweight division, Tito Ortiz has chosen to wait on the sidelines — much like Rashad Evans and Jon Jones have done in recent fights. [Image via www.cagetoday.com]
UPDATE: Well, well. It looks like Tito Ortiz has come to terms with the UFC. Glad to see that he made the right decision after all, even if it wasn't the most advantageous for him personally.
UPDATE: Apparently, everyone but Tito Ortiz himself thought that he would have been the perfect replacement.
With Phil Davis injured and out of his title eliminator match at UFC 133, Rashad Evans is karmically left (once again) without a dance partner on August 6th. And for good reason, too — Evans is a tough challenge for any fighter to rush through a training camp in less than a month, no matter what the paycheck and bonus. But although it's very likely that the always-busy, always-training Lyoto Machida will be stepping up to fight Evans on just a few weeks of short notice, it's a little disappointing to see the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" shy away from a fight with someone whom he's repeatedly claimed to have beaten:
After Chuck Liddell beat me in December 2006, I took on Rashad Evans, who went on to be a world champion and has lost only once since. And I beat him. It was only a "draw" because I got a point taken off for the one, single time when I grabbed the fence. It was a draw, but I was the better fighter in the cage. I won.
If that's true, then why turn down a high profile rematch and a chance to settle the score with Rashad Evans? Even with Ortiz reportedly taking a huge pay cut for future fights, the UFC is usually exceedingly kind to fighters who swoop at the last minute to save an injury-hindered main card fight from dropping off the radar. Looking at the upsides and downsides to taking the fight:
• Minimal injuries from last fight
• Likely bonus check for fighting on short notice
• Protection against getting cut in case of a loss
• Bigger PPV interest in "Ortiz vs. Evans 2"
• Much younger, stronger opponent
• Short training camp to prepare
• Not enough money to be worth the risk
• No guarantee for a title shot with a win
Even though the "Cons" look just as compelling as the "Pros," I have to say that in this particular case, it seems that the risk would be well worth the potential reward. After his stunning upset of Ryan Bader, Tito's public profile (and his ranking in the LHW division) has never been higher in the last five years. Whatever the reason -- not enough money being offered for the fight, uncertainty about preparation, or something else -- Tito Ortiz made the wrong decision.
And really, how often does Dana White come asking for a favor?
If Tito was injured in his last match, I'd understand, but even that doesn't seem to be the case here:
"It’s the rebirth of Tito Ortiz. I’m injury-free. I’m very, very healthy. I had a good training camp," Ortiz told UFC.com shortly after his UFC 132 fight with Ryan Bader. "I did it at home, I didn’t go up to Big Bear. It’s the first time in 11 years I haven’t done it (in Big Bear). I think being mentally focused really helped out a lot. I have a lot of personal problems with my family and stuff and I really focused on the positive."
(Again, emphasis mine.)
For once, Tito Ortiz had nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking a fight. In a rare twist of luck, he was really the best and most sensible option for a replacement main event draw at UFC 133 against Rashad Evans. And as he's often done in the past, Tito is simply letting the moment pass him by.
[McKinley Noble is a staff editor at GamePro and an MMA conspiracy theorist. Follow his Twitter account for crazy talk, 1990s movie references, and general weirdness. Or you could just stalk him on Google.]