Both fighters have had very public disputes with their former employer over the years, while under UFC contract. And almost as fast as it took the ink to dry on their Bellator paperwork, the two were throwing jabs at the UFC.
“Once the other fighters hear about how things work over here (at Bellator) and the sweet deal I got they will be coming over,” said Jackson during a recent media conference call promoting the organization’s first pay-per-view event.
Jackson (32-11) solidified his standing in mixed martial arts history in Japan fighting for Pride Fighting Championships. Forever known for his epic rivalry with Wanderlei Silva and his technical knockout win over Chuck Liddell in the semifinals of the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, Jackson didn’t become a world champion until he fought in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
In his second fight with the organization, he defeated then-champion Liddell for a second time to capture the UFC title. He unified the Pride middleweight and UFC light heavyweight titles in his next outing by defeating Dan Henderson by unanimous decision at UFC 75.
Jackson’s biggest career accomplishments came in the UFC, but he was often times at odds with the organization.
Jackson coached two season of the reality series The Ultimate Fighter. During his second stint as coach, he was pitted against rival Rashad Evans. The two were scheduled to fight at the conclusion of the season, but Jackson pulled out of the fight to film the movie version of The A-Team.
In September 2009, Jackson announced via his blog that he was “done fighting,” citing mistreatment by the UFC. He returned with a new contract and made a second title run, but came up short when he faced champion Jon Jones at UFC 135. Jackson is currently on a three-fight losing streak. Following his last loss, to Glover Teixeira, the UFC cut ties with Jackson.
“I'm just excited to be involved with a positive company,” said Jackson. “I knew fighters were going to come over when they found out how cool Bellator is and how they know how to treat fighters. I knew it was going to happen, but I didn't know it was going to be this soon.”
Prior to signing with Bellator, Jackson had considered retirement or moving over to boxing.
“Before Bellator come around, I was thinking about retirement because I didn't want to fight for the other company I was with no more,” he said.
Ortiz (16-11-1) is a UFC Hall of Famer. He held the light heavyweight title from 2000 to 2003. Prior to Zuffa LLC’s purchase of the UFC in January 2001, Ortiz was managed by Dana White.
During his reign as light heavyweight champion, Ortiz entered a contract dispute with Zuffa and held out to get what he wanted. Many felt he was trying to avoid a fight with top contender Chuck Liddell. While Ortiz sat on the sidelines, the UFC crowned an interim champion.
The rift between Ortiz and White is well documented. Their relationship deteriorated to the point that the two agreed to fight in a boxing match. White’s preparation was filmed and later aired showing Ortiz backing out of the bout.
The fight with Jackson on Nov. 2 will be the first time Ortiz has ever fought for another organization, save for one bout on a non-sanctioned event early in his career.
“Now I'm with another one and I'm going to do exactly the same thing with a positive environment around me, with some people who care about me and want to do something great in the sport. And I think the fans and the fighters in general get another opportunity instead of just answering to one man, to be able to have the opportunity to look somewhere else,” said Ortiz.
“And let me tell you, Bellator is giving that opportunity to fighters that I've always said from the very beginning about pay, about how they should treated and so forth, and you know, Bjorn understands that and he respects us fighters,” he added.
Ortiz retired following a three-fight losing streak and a second loss to Forrest Griffin at UFC 148, but has been contemplating a return for some time.
“I think it came when my handcuffs came off of me on July 7,” he said. “I let my contract clear or be completely done. And you know, pick up the cards and reshuffle and let's do this again. And do it the right way this time. Do it in a positive environment. Do it in a way us fighters should be treated.
“I could only handle so much. I could only be torn down so much,” continued Ortiz. “If we lose, the boss ain't going to sit there and talk smack on us, talk (expletive) on us the whole time, saying how horrible we were and we should be retired and this and that.”
“I agree with what Tito said,” declared Jackson. “It's no secret that we both felt like we've been treated wrongly in the past.”