Ortiz makes himself center of attention

LAS VEGAS – Based on the buildup, a lot of people expected fireworks between Tito Ortiz and Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White in the octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, when one of the company’s biggest drawing fighters was presumed to be in his last UFC match.

On the pay-per-view telecast, Ortiz lost a unanimous decision to undefeated Lyoto Machida with White keeping himself out of the spotlight. White was not even ringside during the fight, watching it from an office in the arena.

But a few hours later, things were quite different, as Ortiz crashed the postfight press conference.

The 33-year-old former UFC light heavyweight champion showed up, uninvited, with UFC official Jennifer Wenk asking him to leave and not cause a scene. Ortiz at first refused, but after some pleading, got up and seemed to act like he’d made his point in front of the media about not being allowed in. But when girlfriend Jenna Jameson told him to stay put, he changed his mind and went back to his seat.

Wenk, after seeing the media wanted to talk with him, agreed to give Ortiz 10 minutes before the official conference started. That lasted about two questions before Zuffa COO Kirk Hendrick stopped the questioning. But after much discussion and a tense scene with the media that wanted to talk with him and the appearance of four Las Vegas Metropolitan police officers, they agreed to let him participate.

Both Wenk and White said that Ortiz was never banned from the conference, but that he should have waited for everyone else as the fighters and White came in as a group.

“We both need some serious counseling,” said White after being asked about the tumultuous relationship between the two and about the possibility they could reach a new contract. “I don’t know if we can make a deal. We need to talk it out some place and talk with each other like grown-ups. It’s hard for both of us.”

Neither was strong about saying Ortiz would never fight in UFC again, even after posting an 0-2-1 record in his last three PPV fights. Ortiz came across as the biggest star of the show to the sellout crowd of 14,773, with a gate of $3.7 million.

Aside from a few snide jabs between the two during the remainder of the press conference, there was only one real flurry. Ortiz said he didn’t know what terms could bring him back, that he’d need to talk with his attorney, that he only wanted to be taken care of financially.

“I don’t want to be 45 years old and still fighting in the UFC,” said Ortiz after a loss by straight 30-27 scores. “The fighters are treated like slaves,” he said.

White took umbrage at the slave remark, saying that the fighters on the podium were happy to be there. He then said they are guys who want to fight three or four times a year, a knock on Ortiz, who hadn’t fought since July and missed a proposed fight late in the year to appear on NBC’s “The Apprentice.”

“You want to be a superstar,” White said. “They want to be fighters.”

Ortiz shot back, “You want to be a superstar,” since White is a featured star on the UFC reality show and is the public face of the company.

With the exception of a triangle choke that he had locked in during the third round, Ortiz (16-6-1) could do nothing on offense against Machida. Ortiz was unable to take him down despite repeated attempts. The Brazilian’s movement kept Ortiz’s strikes from being effective and Machida countered enough to pile up points.

Machida had Ortiz in trouble twice. He took Ortiz down at the end of the first round and was firing punches as the round ended. In the third, he knocked Ortiz down with a knee and did some effective ground and pound. Ortiz suffered a cut on the right eye and wore sunglasses at the press conference, saying that he needed 15 stitches.

Even though the verdict was obvious, Ortiz, who came out to the sounds of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” got a standing ovation from a crowd who seemed to view him as the anti-establishment hero who stood up to authority.

He also upstaged Machida by jumping on the top of the cage as Machida was doing his postmatch interview.

When asked about the triangle, since Ortiz has never won a match with a submission hold in UFC competition, Machida admitted being surprised.

“I was thinking ‘I’m gonna die, but I’m not gonna tap,’ ” he said.

Ortiz said he made a mistake in trying to maneuver the move into an armbar, which allowed Machida to escape.

UFC color commentator Joe Rogan interviewed Ortiz in the octagon, where Ortiz said he would be looking for greener pastures. When Rogan pressed if he was through, Ortiz tempered his earlier words with, “I haven’t decided at all. I’m gonna take two weeks off. I gave my life in this octagon for the greatest fans in the world.”

Dave Meltzer covers mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Send Dave a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, May 25, 2008