During the post-fight press scrum for UFC on Fox 8 on Saturday night, UFC President Dana White fielded a question about a potential Tito Ortiz (16-11-1) comeback. Rather than open the door for Ortiz to return to the UFC, White asked, “Who gives a s—t?”
It might have been a rhetorical question, but Bellator answered White on Wednesday night when they announced that Ortiz will fight Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-11) at Long Beach Arena on Nov. 2.
It’s hard to believe these two light heavyweights never fought each other during their time in the UFC, but apparently they had a strong friendship that they didn’t want to jeopardize. Now that they are both under the Bellator banner, this bout makes more sense than ever.
White publicly criticized Bellator recently and promised the promotion would lose a ton of money if they tried to follow through with a reported plan to pit Jackson against Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing match at the end of the year. Though the Jones match clearly won’t be the first order of Bellator business for Jackson, it could still materialize at some point.
With that fight on the back burner, it must have seemed like the perfect opportunity for Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney to take advantage of the Twitter war between White and Ortiz that unfolded over the last few weeks.
This bout is about so much more than two former UFC vets squaring off against each other. It’s also a way for Bellator to prove that they care more about their fighters than the UFC does.
The two promotions are already deep into a bitter legal battle over the contract of Eddie Alvarez, but this war is being fought on multiple fronts. Bellator’s television network (Spike TV) is the former home of the UFC. White’s even accused the promotion of stealing the concept of their Fight Master reality show from the Ultimate Fighter and the Voice.
The figureheads of these promotions couldn’t be more different, sharing only a lack of hair. Rebney is soft-spoken and unassuming while White is abrasive and demanding. Though they clearly don’t like each other, it’s always White who seems to be outspoken about his animosity while Rebney chooses the high road.
It’s the mark of a promoter who knows he may never be in charge of the most popular MMA circuit on the planet, but he’s still happy to be at the helm of the closest competition that can’t be bought out or be crippled by the biggest bully on the block.