July 14, 2011
Ortiz lives to fight again
By JOSE RODRIGUEZ, QMI Agency
It may be the most meteoric rise from the ashes in UFC history.
With Phil Davis scratched from the UFC 133 main event less than a month out, Tito (The Huntington Beach Bad Boy) Ortiz has stepped up to take on Rashad Evans.
Long the whipping boy for UFC president Dana White, Ortiz is coming off a surprise submission victory over Ryan (Darth) Bader -- Ortiz's first win in nearly five years.
White, who has never held back in voicing his dislike for the former light-heavyweight champ, says Ortiz is a different man.
"He was a guy who always went a different way. He would never work with us, and he was always causing problems," White said of the well -publicized feuds between the two over money.
"He was a guy who would step over dollars to pick up dimes. He went from being a guy who made all these horrible decisions to being a guy who's not only easy to deal with, but wants to get out there and stay active and fight. I like it. I wish I had this Tito Ortiz seven years ago."
Ortiz, who made a comfortable $450,000 for less than two minutes of work in his fight against Bader, was on his way out, says White.
"I thought that was going to be Tito's last fight in MMA," White said of the UFC 132 scrap with Bader.
The UFC president's disdain for Ortiz over the past four years has been well chronicled.
Fights over contracts and verbal spars at press conferences were usual fare for the pair.
White -- who once managed Ortiz -- was also set to have a boxing match with the California fighter a few years back to settle the score once and for all.
Ortiz -- who said he'd forced White to write the fight into one of his previous contracts -- eventually pulled out.
White says he's willing to put the past behind them.
"You see it with some guys, when they see that that window is starting to close. He made some bad decisions in the past, and he's trying to turn that around now," says White.
The 36-year-old with a 16-8-1 record has plenty on the line when he takes on Evans at the Aug. 6 event in Philadelphia.
"If Tito beats Rashad, it would definitely put Tito in the mix," says White.
"I wouldn't say number one contender, but definitely top three."
So with a mere two wins, Ortiz could leapfrog many of his fellow fighters in the 205-lb. class.
And White says -- despite coming in on short notice and a heavy underdog -- Ortiz can't be dismissed.
"Some people would say Rashad is younger and stronger and all the same s**t they said about Ryan Bader," says White.
"Then Tito almost knocks him out and then submits him."
With prolonged absences and few victories in recent years, Ortiz will be getting an introduction to an entirely new fan base.
"There's a lot of buzz on him right now," says White.
"I think people are going to be interested to see if Tito can bounce back.
"Tito has that thing. It's the 'it' factor. (When) he walks into a room, people are drawn to him. Whether they hate him or like him. People are drawn to him."
The fight will be the second between Evans and Ortiz.
Their last fight, at UFC 73 in July 2007, ended in a draw.