The Anatomy of a Train Wreck: How Tito Ortiz Saved UFC 133

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A few days ago, UFC 133 was yet another "okay" card in the UFC's rather dry summer of fights.  After a matchmaking train wreck was caused by the injured up and coming Light Heavyweight Phil Davis, who was set to take on former champion Rashad Evans, Joe Silva was left scrambling for a replacement fight worthy of main event status.  Two men were considered to replace Davis.  Lyoto Machida, who ended Evans' title run, and most recently knocked out UFC legend Randy Couture with a beautiful front kick to the chin, was rumored as the replacement.  Then, Tito Ortiz was rumored, after one of the greatest "come back" stories in MMA history was written when he defeated Ryan Bader, who many considered version 2.0 of Ortiz, at UFC 132.  Let's take a look at how this scramble played out, and why I believe Tito Ortiz saved UFC 133 in more ways than one.

  • Head Kick Legend broke the news that Lyoto Machida was lined up to replace Phil Davis at UFC 133, citing sources close to Evans' camp.   
  • Not long after, word came out that the Evans/Machida fight was not yet official.  Mike Chiappetta tweeted, "I just asked Dana White if Lyoto accepted the fight. His answer: "No, and Tito turned it down." There is no replacement yet."
  • Ortiz had turned down the short notice fight with Evans, despite having claimed that he'd be ready to fight as soon as UFC 133 in an interview with SB Nation's Luke Thomas.  Ortiz took to Twitter to explain himself, "I have a life and things to take care of. The fight game is about making the right choices of my career. If you knew what I have been going through you all would understand. Peaking for a fight is what makes a fighter unstoppable! Timing is everything in life. This is a rebuild year for me not do or die. The time will come again!"
  • Apparently, Machida's camp was looking for big money to step up and fight Rashad on short notice.  Dana White spoke with MMA Junkie, saying, "We knew for a couple days this was going down, and Machida accepted the fight. Then when we called back and said, 'OK, we're going to make this fight,' Machida's people came back and said, 'We'll tell you what. You pay us what you pay Anderson Silva, and we'll take the fight.' This was after they had already agreed to take the fight. I said, 'Are you [expletive] kidding me? I'll tell you what. You tell Machida he achieves what [expletive] Anderson Silva has achieved, then maybe he'll make Anderson Silva money. Have a nice day.'"
  • Tito Ortiz becomes the confirmed replacement for Phil Davis after Machida wasn't getting Anderson Silva money.  From the same MMA Junkie interview with Dana White, White breaks down what happened with Ortiz, "Tito turned it down, and then Tito called back and said, 'Did you get the fight yet?'" White said. "I said, 'Nope.' He goes, 'Let me think about it. Let me talk to my team, and I'll call you back tomorrow.' This was Tuesday night."
If you told me before UFC 132 that not only would Tito Ortiz defeat Ryan Bader in the first round in a fight where he was certainly getting cut from the UFC if he lost, but that he'd be the one NOT shaking down the UFC for money to come in and fight an opponent like Rashad Evans at UFC 133 on short notice, I'd call you stupid after wondering why in the world your prediction was so thorough, yet improbable.  Not only has Ortiz saved UFC 133 from losing a decent main event, his participation on the card so soon after his epic win over Bader removes the event from "catch it at the bar" status to "must see".  

Prior to Ortiz replacing Davis, the main event of UFC 133 lacked any sort of compelling "story" that would catch the attention of fans.  Now, Ortiz and Evans get their rematch after fighting to a draw in their bout at UFC 73, and Ortiz has pulled himself up out of the grave his career was in.  Not only is Ortiz's career alive and well, he may very well  be a win away from contending for the Light Heavyweight title.  Evans is the betting favorite over Ortiz, but the long layoff will definitely not do him any favors.  I never thought I'd be an Ortiz fan, especially this late in his career, but I'll be rooting for him come UFC 133.

 

Photo via Dave Mandel, of Sherdog

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