Not everyone likes Dana White, but few can argue what his impact has been on the sport of MMA. I’d like to believe the same can be said about Tito Ortiz. We’ve all heard the disparaging comments about Tito lately and I understand in his last few fights he looks as though he’s lost a step. His performance on Celebrity Apprentice gave Tito critics ammunition for a lifetime as he struggled to find his way among the other “stars”. But let’s face facts, fans love fighters, and at the same time they love to hate fighters. And with Tito you either love him or hate him, but you will always tune in to see him. In fact, the only other UFC fighter to garner over 2 million PPV buys in one year is a former WWE star named Brock Lesnar, who is also disliked by many fans.
So Tito will be the colour man for tomorrow’s Affliction card and Affliction is banking their big name announcer will draw fans to the event. Some hoping he will do well and others eager to hear him flop.
I was at UFC 84 in May of 2008. BJ Penn was on the card fighting for the Lightweight title to finalize a bitter feud between him and Sean Sherk. Fan favorite Wanderlei Silva was making a comeback after his loss to Chuck Liddell against another UFC star, Keith Jardine.
But who stole the show? That’s right. It was Tito Ortiz. Ortiz was fighting one of the most technical and often boring LightHeavyweights in the UFC Lyoto Machida in a swing bout that stole the show when Tito almost secured a third round triangle choke. Yes Tito ended up losing to Machida, but Machida has yet to be defeated in his entire career. But for one brief moment, a boring lopsided unanimous decision victory brought fans to their feet, thanks to Tito. I am sure half of them wanted Tito to pull it off and half wanted Machida to pull out. But no matter where you stood at that moment, you were paying attention.
Tito will likely never beat Chuck Liddell. Wanderlei may not either. And Rich Franklin may never get another shot at Anderson Silva. But if we put our person opinions of Tito aside for a moment and consider what he has done over the last 2 years.
He beat Forrest Griffin midway through 2006, and went to a draw with Rashad Evans. The decision loss to Evan was arguably because of a questionable point deduction. The last time I checked, those two fought for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title to wrap up 2008.
As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad press, and for whatever reason, fans are intrigued by what Tito does. Tito is only the colour man for tomorrow’s Affliction fight, but he’s the one being showcased as the front man of Affliction over the last few weeks. He hosted their initial press conference, introduced fighters and even rang in the opening bell for the NASDAQ earlier this week. If Tito returns to the UFC after this hold out, it will sure draw some serious attention. If he decides to come back he’ll once again get a large number of PPV buys. Might I suggest Tito vs. Wanderlei Silva II at UFC 100? You’d be tuning in for that one.
Affliction is hoping some will tune in on Saturday to hear what Tito has to say. Love him or hate him, he draws a crowd.