Tito Ortiz will face a stern test in his first match in the Ultimate Fighting Championship since undergoing back surgery Oct. 6, 2008, when he takes on Forrest Griffin at UFC 106 on Nov. 21 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Ortiz, who last fought at UFC 84 on May 24, 2008, when he lost a decision to Lyoto Machida, had been slated to face Mark Coleman. But Coleman had to withdraw from the bout Monday after suffering a second-degree tear of the medial collateral ligament in his knee.
The UFC had to scramble to find a replacement because most of the stars at 205 pounds are booked. But UFC president Dana White confirmed to Yahoo! Sports on Thursday that Griffin had accepted the bout.
Griffin, who lost a controversial decision to Ortiz at UFC 59 in Anaheim, Calif., on April 15, 2006, said last week he hoped to return to action at UFC 108 in January. Given the urgency to find a suitable opponent for Ortiz in the co-main event of what the UFC sees as a blockbuster card, Griffin agreed to the bout.
Both men are former light heavyweight champions. Griffin defeated Quinton "Rampage" Jackson for the belt last year before losing it in his first defense to Rashad Evans. Griffin is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 101.
Ortiz, who re-signed with the UFC in July – thus ending a bitter dispute with White – is 0-2-1 in his last three fights and hasn't won since stopping Ken Shamrock on Oct. 10, 2006, in a bout on Spike TV.
Since then, Ortiz was stopped by Chuck Liddell in a rematch at UFC 66 – a bout that sold a then-UFC pay-per-view record of 1.05 million – fought to a draw with Evans at UFC 73 and lost to Machida at UFC 84.
Ortiz had fought for several years with pain in his back. He said he hadn't been healthy since 2002 when he defeated Shamrock in Las Vegas in the first of their three bouts. He had spinal fusion surgery Oct. 6, 2008, and didn't begin to train again until July.