If you've listened to anything UFC president Dana White has said following Saturday's UFC 121, it's that Tito Ortiz likely will be released from his contract following his unanimous decision loss to Matt Hamill.
Despite Ortiz losing three fights in a row, I think the UFC would be making a mistake in releasing him. I want to state for the record that I'm not an Ortiz fan by any means, but I think he can still have some value to the UFC. Here's why I think he should stick around:
1) This is the most obvious reason, but even though his relevancy is dwindling by the day, you don't want to serve a former world champion up on a platter for rival organizations (mainly Strikeforce). Even though Ortiz might not be as relevant as he once was, he could still mean something. Obviously, the UFC would have to balance whether or not it's worth Ortiz's salary to keep him away from the competition.
2) With the UFC running more and more cards, there's always a need for people with name value. Ortiz is just that. His presence on a weaker card still adds a bit of a boost. Imagine if Ortiz/Hamill took place at UFC 122 in Germany? That's an instant boost to that card, although cards that poor are few and far between these days with the UFC. That said, though, his salary dictates that he has to fight someone of name, so you just can't put him in there with a perceived nobody.
3) It's not like he wasn't competitive in there against Hamill. If Ortiz had looked completely lifeless, I wouldn't be attempting to make this argument. He showed he still has some fight left in him despite all the injuries that have taken their toll on him throughout the years.
4) Obviously, as I stated above, I believe the UFC should keep Ortiz around, if only for one more fight. Now, there are only two names I'd keep him around to face — Randy Couture or Chuck Liddell. Let's address Liddell first. Obviously, I think the chances of this one happening are extremely slim, but it's still a fight both would want. White doesn't want Liddell fighting again, but this is probably the one fight that could be made. The more I think about it, though, I don't exactly want to see Liddell in there, either. Being knocked out by Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua and Rich Franklin is one thing. Potentially being put out by Ortiz is a different level of sadness. I don't want this fight to happen, but if it were made, I could probably understand why (for business reasons). So this fight is a distant No. 2 in my mind.
Now, Couture is a completely different story. A rematch of their memorable 2003 fight would be an interesting scrap. Couture is getting up there in years and still wants to fight. Nobody wants to see Randy Couture go into the Octagon and get killed, so finding interesting fights for him that don't pose a real imminent danger to his well-being (see Mark Coleman and James Toney fights) sees to be on the front of White and Joe Silva's minds. That's why a Couture/Ortiz fight makes sense. Ortiz is absolutely no threat whatsoever to Couture and allows all parties to be happy. Ortiz will get cut, Couture can (likely) ride off into the sunset with a four-fight winning streak without having been compromised health-wise and the UFC gets one last marketable fight out of both fighters. It's a fight that makes sense not only for both fighters at this point in their careers but also for the promoter.
If Ortiz is being kept around for any reason other than fighting Couture, or, to a much lesser extent, Liddell, well, I don't think I'd really get that. Even fighting an up-and-coming like Phil Davis wouldn't make much sense because I don't think Ortiz can be used to get a younger fighter "over" anymore like he did with Forrest Griffin at UFC 59. In the right spot, though, keeping Ortiz around makes a lot of sense. A fight with Couture is just that right spot.