UFC president Dana White revealed this week to MMAFighting that UFC mainstays Tito Ortiz and B.J. Penn will eventually join the likes of Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Matt Hughes, Dan Severn, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Mark Coleman (as well as TapouT co-founder Charles “Mask Lewis) in the UFC Hall of Fame.
Though White has a contentious history with Ortiz, the promotion’s longest running light heavyweight champ, he said that The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’s contributions to the sport and promotion are undeniable.
“Despite my personal problems with Tito, he belongs in,” said White. “He was the champion when we first bought this thing. The fact that Tito is still here, Tito and I have had our moments, but it doesn’t change what he did for the company.
“The beef between me and Tito, Chuck and Tito, the fact is, that played a huge role in helping making this thing as big as it is.”
Ortiz is facing Forrest Griffin in a rubber match this July at UFC 148 in what is expected to be his retirement match.
B.J. Penn is another fighter that White has been at odds with more than once, but whom he believes is absolutely deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame.
“The thing about B.J. Penn is that what he brought to the lightweight division, there was a point in time when we first bought this company when people thought guys in the lighter weight divisions could’t be stars and couldn’t see pay-per-views and couldn’t cross over. B.J. Penn was definitely that first crossover guy for us,” he said.
Though the 33-year-old Penn actually announced his retirement this past October, White doesn’t see the fiery Hawaiian staying on the sidelines for long.
“He’ll be back,” White predicted. “It’s tough, when there are 16,000 people in the arena chanting your name, it’s tough to walk away from that. B.J. Penn is a fighter. You hear some of these guys, and Tito was one of these guys, he said he wanted to be famous. B.J. Penn is a fighter.”