Tito Ortiz Makes Huge Managerial Gaffe in Asking for Cyborg Release from Zuffa
When Tito Ortiz was an active fighter, he was pretty good at marketing himself.
That trait was evident throughout his entire career, from his early days as light-heavyweight champion all the way to the twilight of his career, when Ortiz won just one fight in six years of UFC competition.
He started his own clothing company, one that continues with a moderate level of MMA-world success to this day. He remained an ultra-popular and often divisive figure with the fans even as his in-cage skills deteriorated.
And I hate the increasing usage of the term "brand," but there's little question that Ortiz was one of the first fighters to grasp that it was possible to create a living for himself outside of the Octagon.
Which is why it's so perplexing that Ortiz, having transitioned from fighting to managing the careers of other fighters, is so very bad at giving helpful advice.
At the moment, Ortiz has just one high-profile client: Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, the seemingly unbeatable former Strikeforce women's champion who has been in negotiation with Zuffa for several months.
There's no doubt that securing a fight for Santos with UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey would create one of the most anticipated UFC pay-per-view events of 2012. Ever since Rousey capped off her sudden rise to stardom by winning the now-defunct Strikeforce title from Miesha Tate, it's been one of those fights that fans are desperate to see.
These fights don't come along that often, and when they do, you have to capitalize. Rousey, she of the multiple one-minute armbar wins, taking on a former champion who crushed everyone in her path? That's an easy sell, especially if Rousey gets by Liz Carmouche at UFC 157.
And yet, for whatever reason, Santos seemingly has no desire to make the cut to 135 pounds. She's adamant that Rousey needs to come up to face her at her own weight, despite the fact that Santos hasn't fought since testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug in her last Strikeforce bout more than a year ago.
Oh, and let's not forget that the UFC doesn't even have a women's featherweight division and likely won't for quite some time. Unless the Rousey experiment is a rousing success, there's little chance that female featherweights will ever grace the inside of the Octagon.
Dana White, desperate to make the Rousey-Cyborg fight, even offered to enlist the services of MMA nutrition guru Mike Dolce to help Santos make the weight in healthy form. She'd have to lose some muscle mass, sure, but she'd still be one of the most in-shape fighters in the entire sport.
But Santos still resists the idea, and on Friday night, Ortiz told Inside MMA that they've asked Zuffa to release her from her contract so that Santos can go to Invicta or another promotion that features female featherweights:
"Right now, we're actually waiting for the UFC to release her," Ortiz said. "We asked for them to release her, and Dana actually talked to me (Thursday). They gave an offer, and I went to Cyborg and she didn't want to do it, so we asked for her release. Since they're not having a 145-pound weight class, what else can they do?
"So as of now, she's going to be released, and maybe we'll go looking somewhere else and you'll be seeing Cyborg crush some other women's faces."
I don't know how involved Ortiz is in the actual advisement of Santos. For all I know, his partner George Prajin is the one who handles these types of things.
But in most of the interviews Ortiz has given on the subject, he's continually been adamant that it's Rousey who needs to change weight classes and that Santos cannot make the drop to 135 pounds in a healthy manner. This, again, despite the fact that Rousey is the champion of the only weight class available for women in the UFC and that Santos is coming off that PED violation in her last fight.
Put simply, telling Santos to do anything other than accept Zuffa's offer, partner with Dolce and make 135 pounds is just bad advice.
If Santos truly cannot make bantamweight in a healthy manner, then she's well within her rights to ask for a release. But she's not even making an attempt. I have zero doubt that Dolce can get her to the proper weight while maintaining her strength and explosiveness; his track record of doing that exact thing leads to me believe that, when he says he can do it, he can do it.
Making that weight, even if it's a little bit difficult, would translate into a fairly large pay-per-view for the UFC and a giant paycheck for Santos. Does Ortiz actually believe that he'll get even one-tenth of that money from Invicta or another promotion?
If so, he's off his rocker.
Not only that, but Rousey versus Santos would be another giant leap forward for women's mixed martial arts. Santos already participated in the biggest women's MMA fight to date; her demolition of former MMA sweetheart Gina Carano remains one of the most-watched North American fights of all time.
A fight with Rousey would add another meaningful main event to her record. That's something to be proud of, especially when she needs all the goodwill she can get.
Ortiz has a checkered history when it comes to business dealings with the UFC. But he's not managing his own career at this point; he's giving advice to someone who desperately needs to be shown just how important a potential bout with Rousey would be, both from a financial perspective and in historical terms.
For Cyborg's sake, I hope Ortiz realizes that there's only one intelligent option here. But from the sound of it, I don't think that's the case.
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