Tito Ortiz, one of the most popular Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters in history, will return to the company for at least three additional fights. In two of those fights, Ortiz will face Forrest Griffin in April and Ken Shamrock in October. Provided he wins both, he will likely face either Chuck Liddell or Randy Couture for the title.
Shamrock and Ortiz will also be head coaches for season three of the Ultimate Fighter, replacing Carlos Newton and Pat Miletich.
The return of Ortiz to UFC—and the reinstatement of a professional relationship with Dana White that it implies—reverses the public posturing of UFC with regard to Ortiz. The company suggested that they could not waver in their belief that his price was too high or that he was necessary to their success.
Ortiz stopped fighting for the UFC earlier this year after UFC stopped negotiating with him. He had asked for $300,000—the highest UFC salary ever.
To Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the high price was worth it. “[Money fights that involve Ortiz] will do 100,000 buys, if not more at a higher price, or $1.5 million PPV revenue and probably $1.7 million live,” he wrote in February. “So having a mega fight, and Ortiz can deliver one if not more, is worth probably $1.7 million to Zuffa per show. Being that they would likely sign Ortiz if he asked for $150,000 per fight, you are talking about walking away from $1.7 million at least once, if not twice, over $150,000 extra per show.”
Ultimately, both Ortiz and UFC thought it was beneficial to compromise in order to continue their relationship. The Huntington Beach Bad Boy is one of the more popular competitors in mixed martial arts and is likely to gain some measure of success in UFC upon his return. For the UFC, it seems to represent a willingness to acknowledge that Ortiz is worth his asking price, though it is unknown how much he signed for.
This also marks the return of Ortiz’s arch rival Ken Shamrock to UFC. Shamrock’s contract with UFC ended this spring after he suffered defeats against Rich Franklin and Ortiz in 2002, but defeated Kimo. He lost to Kazushi Sakuraba, in a match between two of the legends of mixed martial arts, at a PRIDE show in October.
A highly anticipated fight between Ortiz and Shamrock has been delayed for several months and on the new schedule, will not happen until October of 2006, when Shamrock will be almost 43. Their original fight, in November of 2002, was the all-time gate record for UFC at $1,540,270.