I as well as many others predicted that Tito Ortiz would fight in the UFC once again after declaring he was done with the promotion after his UFC 84 loss to eventual UFC LHW champion Lyoto Machida. Now a year and a half has passed, Ortiz is coming of major back surgery, and the UFC is bigger now than it was a year and a half ago. Where else was he going to fight? The Japanese promotions never had a chance, nor did Affliction, and Strikeforce is just now starting to become relevant in the bigger scheme of things. There would be maybe 1-2 meaningful fights there for Ortiz at best, not to mention none of these promotions would be able to promote Ortiz with any of his UFC footage. He's spent his entire MMA career within that one organization. Let's get on to the significance of Ortiz re-signing with the UFC:
- The UFC is putting on more and more shows every year with a limited number of PPV draws. We saw the roster stretched thin here a while back as injuries and other things derailed PPV plans in the early quarter of this year. We saw UFC 93 and UFC 95(aired on Spike TV) with main events with no titles on the line and with fighters that are not significant PPV draws. UFC 96 also featured what many considered a lackluster main event in Rampage Jackson vs. Keith Jardine. Ortiz while not what he used to be is a proven draw, and coupled with the right opponent can still pull big numbers. This is something the UFC will need as they do more and more shows.
- Re-signing Ortiz takes away a fighter from Strikeforce that could have gotten them big ratings on Showtime or potentially CBS. The rumor is that Strikeforce is negotiating with Fedor Emelianenko, but Ortiz is way more of draw than Emelianenko is.
- Ortiz is of Mexican-American heritage and with the UFC's recent TV deal with Grupo Televisa in Mexico, he could become a big part of promoting the UFC in Mexico and beyond.
- Ortiz is one of the most vocal fighters in the game, and corralling him back into the fold possibly eliminates a high profile fighter continuously speaking out against Zuffa...especially after having such a public falling out of grace with his last fight at UFC 84. Ortiz always talks about speaking for the fighters and such, ultimately it shows that money talks and Zuffa has A LOT of it. Ortiz said that he's satisfied with his salary and you'll never hear him talk about money every again. I wouldn't hold my breath on that one though.
Ultimately, it'll be interesting to see if Ortiz can return to being a legitimate top 5 LHW again. He said that he doesn't expect to fight until November or December. My guess would be that he'll fight on the December card, since that's usually the most stacked event of the year and Ortiz will probably want to make a grand entrance.