Recent reports that Tito Ortiz has come to terms with Affliction appear to be premature. He was in Stockton for Elite XC, and I highly doubt he made the trip up to see the fights. At this point, he is by far the hottest free agent in the industry, and all three major companies would benefit from signing him.
The UFC: The reasons to keep Tito around are obvious. The major challenge for the UFC over the next year will be to maintain dominance in the industry and to strengthen their perception as the top dog. If they can survive the challenges of EliteXC and Affliction and emerge as the clear winner, it’s unlikely they will see a major challenge for some time to come.
Even though Tito Ortiz lost his last fight, he still has immense value. He was the most popular fighter at UFC 84, and even in defeat came out stronger because of the triangle choke, and because of the way he stole the spotlight after the show. There are still money matches for him in the UFC: A clash of UFC icons with Rich Franklin would draw, as would a battle at 205 lbs with Anderson Silva. The latter could do incredible business on PPV, and would certainly cement Silva’s stardom. If he could put a few together, he has a win over the current champion, and that match would do amazing business too. The fact that he has beaten their champion is something that will be brought up repeatedly by any promotion that signs him, and provides yet another reason to keep him around.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the UFC can pay him the most of any of his options. He was offered an even more lucrative deal than his last one that he turned down, and he is rumored to have received multiple offers since. The UFC is the only one of these three major options that will surely be around for years to come, and there is value in stability.
EliteXC: This is the promotion that needs him the most. They now need to do a good rating in October, or they will lose their spot on CBS, and the company is likely finished if they lose that deal. They have just lost too much money, and they bet the whole bank on this deal with CBS working out. The recent news of their abysmal gate in Stockton confirms even further their need for star power outside of Kimbo Slice and Gina Carano. They need stars on the other shows, and Tito can certainly carry things on that end.
It is questionable however whether EliteXC can pay Tito what he wants. They’ve lost a ton of money, and I have my doubts about whether CBS will be willing to pony up millions for a project they don’t seem that dedicated to. Tito would have to take a substantial pay cut in exchange for increased exposure, and I don’t see him taking that pay cut.
Affliction: Renato “Babalu” Sobral has called Ortiz out multiple times, and rumors have emerged of a deal between Tito and Affliction. Tito has a relationship with Donald Trump, but Trump is just a front man, he is not running this thing. In the long term, Affliction has nothing to offer Tito at 205. He could move to heavyweight, but there is nobody at the top level of that heavyweight class he can beat. If he loses to Babalu, I think it would do significant damage to him.
Nobody really knows the financial status of Affliction, other than that they lost millions and can’t lose that much again. Frankly, we still don’t even know if they have Fedor for the next show. I think they do, but they haven’t announced anything yet, and he is not locked down. If they are using Fedor, and I think they will, adding a gigantic salary for Ortiz on top of that will make it very difficult to survive this show without significant losses. I do think, however, that cutting over a million in needless salaries from their last show and replacing them with Tito Ortiz would be a good move.
Overall, I think the best move for Tito would be to sign a one fight deal with EliteXC to fight Frank Shamrock on CBS. They have been hesitant to put anyone on CBS without a long term deal, but Tito has the leverage to pull it off, and it provides him with a great chance to pull off a high profile win in front of millions of people, and EliteXC needs it. The next best move would be to leverage his position to get a lucrative 4-6 fight deal with the UFC that does not have the clause allowing them to cut him.
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