It’s remarkable how quickly things can change in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, and nobody knows that better than UFC president Dana White.
Just a few weeks ago he was declaring that Tito Ortiz was in “the final chapter” of his UFC career and that they were preparing to cut ties with him if he lost his fight with Ryan Bader, and now he’s got a win under his belt and is going to headline the promotion’s very next UFC event against to all intents and purposes the 205lb division’s No.1 contender.
“The storyline is what’s so interesting,” White admits in a new interview with MMAJunkie just after news broke that Ortiz had agreed to fight Rashad Evans at UFC 133 on August 6th. “Tito went from ‘You’re about to be cut,’ to now, if he beats Rashad Evans, he’s back in the mix. He’s back in the picture.”
Ortiz had in fact initially turned down the fight, but according to White he then had a change of heart of his own accord and phoned the UFC president to offer his services and get them out of a sticky situation.
It’s a gamble for the former champion given that he has only three and a half weeks to prepare, but White appears to believe that Ortiz has a genuine chance of pulling another upset here just as he did against Bader two weeks ago.
“I think it’s a big fight for Tito. I think he’s got a lot of momentum after winning that last fight. Evans was in line for a shot. Tito is now fighting a guy he went to a draw with and who hasn’t fought in a year-and-a-half.”
Despite their differences, and there have been many over the years, Ortiz decision to step up at late notice to help out the promotion appears to have put him back in the good books with White again, and that means that the threat of being cut appears to have been lifted from the veteran fighters shoulders, for the time being at least.
“[Expletive] right, he gets a break,” White said. “Tito stepped up to the plate. It’s [expletive] weird here. It’s like I’m dealing with a new person. I like it. I like the new Tito.”
While Ortiz may now have a halo over his head in White’s eyes, the same cannot be said of the other fighter who was offered the fight with Evans – another former champion, Lyoto Machida.
White says that Machida had originally agreed to the fight, but then his representatives came back with a counter-offer, demanding what they cited as “Anderson Silva money.”
Needless to say White was less than thrilled by that.
“I said, ‘Are you [expletive] kidding me? I’ll tell you what. You tell Machida he achieves what [expletive] Anderson Silva has achieved, then maybe he’ll make Anderson Silva money. Have a nice day.'”
So from the sounds of things Machida and his management team have some bridges to mend.