I’m sure your first response to the question in this article’s title was an emphatic “NO!” Well, hold off on that answer for just a minute, and read on as I try to prove otherwise, or at least leave you open to a “maybe.”
Tito fights this Saturday at UFC 132 against top ten light heavyweight, Ryan Bader coming off his only professional loss to the current champ, Jon Jones. So, is Tito actually getting a step down in competition? In fact, it’s more of a step up or at worst, on par with his most recent opposition. Let’s go ahead and look at Tito’s current winless streak.
Chuck Liddell – Light Heavyweight Champ – TKO
Rashad Evans – Eventual Light Heavyweight Champ – Draw
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Lytoto Machida – Eventual Light Heavyweight Champ – Decision
Forrest Griffin – Former Light Heavyweight champ – Decision
Matt Hammil – Top 15 – Decision
Do you notice a pattern? Four out the five opponents Tito has faced were current, eventual, or former champs in the prime of their careers. Let’s not pretend Matt Hammil is some slouch, either. Look at one other thing on that list. The Iceman was the only man to finish Tito. That says something. I think, after reviewing his losses, we can cut Tito a little slack on his winless streak.
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Now, let us take a look at some more facts. Tito’s fight purse was $250,000 at UFC 121, just to show. That is one of the highest in the business. I honestly don’t recall if he still gets a cut of the pay-per-view revenues anymore, but I would be surprised if he didn’t. He has also headlined a pay-per-view as recently as UFC 106 for his fight with Griffin. What’s more, people know “the Huntington Beach Bad Boy.” Is he the draw he was five or ten years ago? Probably not, but he is a serious draw nonetheless.
Now let’s suppose for a minute, that Tito defeats Bader this weekend (Tito is a large underdog according to most sports books). If he does win, that’s a win against a legit top 10 opponent. That would likely thrust Tito into the top 10 to 15 himself, or at least near it. We know from his previous fights that Zuffa is not in the business of giving Tito gimme competition. So what would be next? Another top 10 contender. If he beats that guy? Likely a top 5 challenger. Now, if he wins that one too? You heard it here today; Tito Ortiz will get a title shot, if all of the previously stated events occur.
The UFC is never going to waste the draw power of Tito Ortiz, or the giant paycheck he receives, on sub-par competition. Regardless of how Dana White feels about Tito at any given time, Zuffa is a business, and Tito is good for business. While it is highly unlikely (read: darn near impossible) that the events will take place as described, Tito is currently and never has been any more than three fights from fighting for the belt.
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