Tito Ortiz (16-11-1) is getting ready to return to action this Saturday and is competing for just the 2nd time in his 18-year, 28-fight career, outside of the UFC—on the Bellator 120 PPV, taking on Bellator Middleweight Champion, Alexander Shlemenko (50-7). Shlemenko will be moving up a weight class and giving up well over just the 20 lb difference between middleweight and light heavyweight.
Ortiz was originally part of the main event in Bellator’s first attempt at a PPV back in November of 2013, scheduled to fight Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. However a neck injury suffered during training forced Tito out of the fight, and forced Bellator to cancel their PPV, and instead change the event to a free card.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney’s biggest concern going into this upcoming PPV was the health of Tito Ortiz—given his long history battling injuries—and the worry that he would be forced to pull out of the fight again.
“My biggest concern right now is Tito Ortiz to be completely honest with you,” Rebney said during last week’s media scrum. “Tito is 100% cleared but the reality is Tito keeps texting me like almost giving me crap saying ‘haha another day of full training, I went 10 rounds’. Like giving me a hard time about it.”
Bjorn was relived when Tito had told him a week out from the fight that he had stopped his hardcore training camp, and would be healthy for the fight.
“But Tito’s fine. Tito actually stopped hardcore training yesterday, which is a gift from the gods. Because my biggest concern was that he was going to stuff a takedown and break his neck again. But Tito is—he’s okay, which is awesome.”
At 39 years old, Tito Ortiz will be competing in his 29th career fight, and nearly 2 years removed from his last fight—a loss to Forrest Griffin in July of 2012.
“He’s going to bring the fight, he’s a warrior. There are guys in every sport that would mail it in, but Tito Ortiz isn’t one of them. Love him or hate him, and most people either really love him or really hate him, you don’t have a lot of guys in the middle, apathetically. There are a lot of things I worry about Tito, and mailing it in isn’t one of those on the list.”
Bjorn has calling this fight between Ortiz and Shlemenko, a ‘Cirque Du Soleil-esque’ type of fight, given the size difference between the two fighters is nearly 40 lbs.
“I just think that in our organization, given the structure, we have so few opportunities to make something really weird happen,” Rebney said. “To be able to create a fight like this between a reigning middleweight champ who is really small, who actually should be fighting at welterweight if he was in the US. To put him in against a guy who is 205er, who’s been known for his entire career for being one of the biggest 205ers in the sport. The thing that makes it a freakshow is the weight disparity and the size disparity.”
“I have no idea what’s going to happen in that fight, and that’s what makes it such a freakshow. It could be completely one sided in one direction, completely one sided in the other direction, who knows? That’s why I think it’s kind of a weird Cirque Du Soleil fight and we never get to make ‘em.”
Despite having just won 1 of his last 9 fights, Bjorn suggests that Tito Ortiz still has a legacy to fight for, and a loss to Shlemenko certainly would not help his case.
“Tito’s lost to 205ers, he’s lost to legitimate guys at 205. The who’s who of who’s beaten Tito. There’s not a crappy name on the list of the guys he’s lost to,” Rebney said. “He was at one point, not now, but he was at one point one of the most dangerous guys on earth at 205.”—“It doesn’t help Tito’s legacy very much if he loses to a 85er who’s a blown up welterweight.”
Come Saturday, the fans will see whether Tito Ortiz will use his size advantage to win his first fight since 2011, or whether Alexander Shlemenko will continue his roll throughout Bellator, and extend his 13-fight win streak, looking for career win #51.