“I spoke to my partner and we talked about what it meant for us as a family and for my business. Being a fighter means being selfish sometimes. When I am training, it has to be about ‘me, me, me.’ I hate being selfish when I have a family but the reality of fighting and of being a champion is that you have to put yourself first when you prepare for battle — because no one can do you a favor or help you once the Octagon door shuts. During the time preparing for a fight, training has to be top priority or you will suffer for it. But I’ve got a great support system around me. They all supported me; so I called Dana back. He was a little surprised to hear from me. I asked if he’d managed to get another [replacement] for Rashad. He said no, and I said: ‘I know you need me, and I’m in. I am stepping up to fight Rashad – I’m going to beat him’… My thought processes were pretty much ‘Dana and [UFC owner] Lorenzo [Fertitta] are the reason I’ve got my brand in the first place. Now they are asking me for a favor but, really, it isn’t a favor it is an opportunity they are offering me.’ For the last six years I’ve had problems with the UFC and now it is time for me to stop being the bad boy and help out when they need me. I’m really grateful to Dana, Lorenzo and also Rashad – because Rashad took this fight at just as short a notice as me and I appreciate him agreeing to the fight.”
— Tito Ortiz blogging for ESPN.com about his decision to take the Rashad Evans fight on short notice at UFC 133
The key word here is “opportunity” because it may turn into a major one if things fall Tito’s way over the next few months. While Dana White previously said Tito would be considered a “top 3” light heavyweight if he beats Rashad Evans at UFC 133, he didn’t exactly rule out Tito actually taking over the number one contender’s spot during today’s UFC 135 press conference.
“I don’t know,” White said. “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.”
I think most would say Tito would need to win at least one other high-profile fight (probably two or three) before he “deserves” a crack at the title, but as we’ve learned over the years, a fighter’s record isn’t the only factor the UFC uses to determine their number one contenders. Timing and marketability also play major a role, and if Tito does the unlikely and beats two top-ranked light heavyweights in the span of a few weeks after not winning a fight in five years, the UFC is going to have one heck of a story to sell. Couple that with no clear cut contender behind Evans and I think the UFC would have a very hard time resisting the urge to push Tito into title contention with the Jones-Rampage winner. I’m sure a good portion of the fanbase would go apeshit over it, but you know Tito Ortiz’s “Cinderella story” would sell tickets and pay-per-view buys. At the end of the day, that’s what this business is about.