“Other than going on a killing spree, being accused of domestic violence is the worst thing you can have going for you.”
Not exactly the kind of support that Tito Ortiz was hoping for from current employer, ex-manager, and sometimes friend, UFC president Dana White. For those unaware of yesterday’s news from Huntington Beach, Tito Ortiz was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence against his live-in girlfriend, Jenna Jameson. Local 911 received an AM call about a disturbance at the residence in Ortiz’s hometown and responded to find Jameson with “visible injuries”. As usual, TMZ.com was all over it, and broke the news. They had photos of the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” being cuffed and stuffed and even caught a tearful Jameson at later points in the day (wearing an arm brace) essentially confirming that she was the alleged victim, that Ortiz was in jail, and that she was going to press charges.
Late Monday, Team Ortiz countered in a press conference accusing Jameson of having a relapse from a nasty OxyContin addiction, that he never laid a hand on her, and that Jameson’s own family now sides with him after hearing his side of the story. The whole scenario is rapidly turning into a “he said, she said” tale of alleged domestic assault, alleged drug abuse, and, yes, media manipulation.
While the accusations against Jameson will likely have zero impact on her adult entertainment enterprise, the accusations could be catastrophic to Ortiz. Ortiz works for an organization entirely cognizant of the negative impact of having troublemakers on its payroll – including someone accused of domestic assault. Considering White’s comments, the enormity of the allegations, and the overall negative exposure to the UFC, will the UFC now cut Tito Ortiz as a result? Although only time (and Dana) will tell, the ball is squarely in White’s court. For a myriad of reasons, if I was a betting man, I’d be leaning towards Ortiz getting his walking papers. The UFC is big business, and, like any profitable organization, ultimately makes decisions based upon “Return on Investment” and the value that fighters provide to the organization. Does Ortiz provide any value to the UFC at this point? The following holds true:
- Ortiz is an aging fighter at 35 years old with some nagging health issues, who, by most accounts hasn’t had a significant win in a little over 4 years (def. Forrest Griffin at UFC 59). The two wins against Ken Shamrock did nothing for his career, and, his previously scheduled showdown with Chuck Liddell after The Ultimate Fighter 11 was his shot at proving his current relevance. Most agree that the former UFC champion isn’t even a Top 20 Light Heavyweight any longer.
- Leaked accounts during The Ultimate Fighter 11 had Ortiz not being able to complete taping of the show for unknown reasons. Rich Franklin was tapped as his replacement on the show, and it’ll be Franklin – not Ortiz – who’ll face Liddell in a few months. Although Franklin should be a game opponent for Liddell, the UFC can’t be happy with the planned third grudge match between two of the biggest (ex) names in the sport going at it one final time. Dollars lost.
- Ortiz and Dana White used to be friendly away from MMA, but, by all accounts, haven’t been close for years. Ortiz publicly demanded higher pay at the conclusion of his contract in 2007, and the two have interacted solely on a professional level since. Both still like to take swipes at each other when the circumstances and audience are right. Declining skills and contentious relationship be damned, having Ortiz on the UFC payroll has solely been a financial decision for quite some time. As White and the UFC continue to build their empire, putting forth the “right” image for mass consumption is critical. Having someone accused of domestic assault against a woman (true or not) coupled with the contentious history with White isn’t good.