Photo courtesy of TitoOrtiz.com
It depends which way you look at the situation, but when it comes to Tito Ortiz and his career-long relationship with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it’s becoming more and more evident that the end is nearing.
May 24th could end up marking the first time since Ortiz stopped Jerry Bohlander with strikes at UFC 18 in January 1999 that “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” will not be fighting in a main event or co-main event at a UFC show, ending a consecutive streak of seventeen events.
Like I said, it depends on which way you look at things. The way the UFC is currently marketing the event, Ortiz’s fight is being advertised as being on the main card, but is currently a rung on the ladder below Wanderlei Silva clashing with Keith Jardine, the first time that has happened in nine years. The UFC’s official website even has the fight listed below Goran Reljic’s debut against Wilson Gouveia.
While Ortiz’s upcoming fight with Machida has been shown as being featured on the UFC 84 promo that will air on television in the coming weeks, the UFC also did the same thing with Jon Fitch. His fight against Team Quest product Chris Wilson ended up starting off the PPV broadcast of UFC 82: Pride of a Champion earlier this month.
Granted the UFC also likely wanted to give Fitch some exposure with a title shot nearing as well.
Even though Ortiz will become a free agent after the fight, the UFC is neglecting to give him the Andrei Arlovski treatment by refusing to relegate him to the undercard. Yes, Arlovski’s last two wins prior to his stoppage of Jake O’Brien were rather lackluster, but Ortiz’s draw against Rashad Evans wasn’t very eventful and he hasn’t defeated a quality opponent since Forrest Griffin in April 2006.
Still, five years after he last held the UFC light heavyweight title, Ortiz remains one of the company’s biggest draws, bigger than Arlovski. The UFC certainly realizes it, thus why they are putting Ortiz’s popularity to use for their own benefit.
They also have the possibility of Ortiz losing, sending him packing on a bad note and giving Machida a huge win in front of the world, a potential win-win situation for Dana White and company.
It’s still early however and it will be interesting to see if Ortiz becomes a larger factor into the UFC’s marketing of “Ill Will”. Regardless, it’s becoming visibly apparent that the UFC is beginning to prepare for life without Tito Ortiz.
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