On July 31, 2013, former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz signed with Bellator MMA. He was scheduled to face fellow former UFC titleholder Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the promotion’s first pay-per-view event in November. On Oct. 25, it was announced that Ortiz was forced out of the match-up due to a neck injury. The pay-per-view never materialized and Ortiz’s fighting future remains uncertain.
“Tito is still with us. I’ve got to sit down and really download with Tito,” said Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney during a media conference call on Monday. “When I initially got on the phone with the doctors, and Tito announced to us that he had fractured his neck, that was and is the primary concern. There’s not a substantive answer at this point to whether he’s going to come back.”
Ortiz fractured his neck while preparing for the Nov. 2 bout, and the injury could be career ending.
“We’re having discussions with him. The key was to get 120-percent healed,” said Rebney. “It’s an unsettling conversation to have a specialist in the field of neck injuries to tell you that with the right kind of drop on the head, or the right kind of impact on the spine, paralysis could be a result. That’s never a good conversation: A) for a world class althete, but B) it’s never a good conversation for the person in my position charged with putting that person inside of a cage to fight against top tier competition.”
Facing the potential of paralysis, it seems unlikely that Ortiz will fight again. Although, it may not be probable, a return is still a possibility. Crazier things have happened.
“The concern is still there, but just like any kind of injury, or just like any kind of break, he may be able to come back from it,” said Rebney. “And if he is able to come back from it, we’ll relight the fuse and figure out what the steps are to get him into the cage. But right now there isn’t a definitive answer in terms of when he could come back.”
Ortiz’s contract is basically on hold until a time where he’s healthy enough to return, if that ever comes to fruition.
“If a fighter becomes injured, or is unable to compete, it’s what’s called tolling. The contract basically stops until such time as the fighter can compete. And when the fighter can compete and is 100-percent cleared then everything reignites and starts up again. It’s almost like time stops as the fighter recuperates from an injury or gets to a position to where he can compete again,” explained the Bellator CEO.
“Tito and I have got to sit down, work through it, talk about it, and if he is going to get back inside the cage, which is a distinct possibility, figure out what the best launch pad is and how he’d want to do that and what makes sense,” added Rebney.