In one fight, former UFC light heavyweight champ Tito Ortiz went from staring down retirement to possibly making a highly improbable run at the title.
“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was on the chopping block when he met young contender Ryan Bader at UFC 132 earlier this month; not having seen victory since a 2006 meeting with Ken Shamrock, most assumed that the 35-year-old would have his swan song against Bader.
Then the cage door closed on the two fighters and just under two minutes later, Ortiz was doing his celebratory “gravedigger” celebration for the first time in five years.
Ortiz dropped Bader with a short right hand and finished him off with a guillotine choke in short order, handing “Darth” his second career defeat. Now, he’s set to meet previous opponent and old rival Rashad Evans in the main event of UFC 133 and UFC president Dana White recently revealed during a media conference call that a victory in that fight could set Ortiz up for a Cinderella story.
“I don’t know,” said White when asked where a win over Evans would place Ortiz. “It’s tough one. He beats [Ryan] Bader who was ranked, I think 7 or 8. Then he comes back and beats the guy ranked No. 1? I don’t know. It’s a tough question. Some would say Tito. Some would say he probably has to beat one other guy. I don’t know. We’ll figure that out when it happens.”
White was asked if Ortiz would be catapulted back to the top of the division with a win over Evans and, while stopping short of guaranteeing him a title shot with victory, the UFC boss said that he wouldn’t be too far away from challenging for championship gold with a win.
“No one could deny that,” White said. “He beats a top-10 contender in Ryan Bader, and then comes in and knocks off who many believe is the No. 1 contender for the title. It would definitely put Tito in the mix. I wouldn’t say that he’s necessarily the No. 1 contender after this fight, but he’s top three.”
Not bad for a fighter who was largely written off altogether as being a relevant force at 205lbs. prior to his last fight.