Just once, Dana White should tell us what he really thinks:
"Tito is a (expletive) idiot. He’s one of the dumbest human beings I’ve ever met. Everything that comes out of his mouth makes no sense. I put up with his (expletive) when he was a good fighter. He’s not anymore.
"He’s not in anybody’s top 10. I have no interest whatsoever in being in the Tito Ortiz business. … I’ve never wanted to see anyone get their ass kicked worse than I want to see Tito get his kicked."
Yeah. That will do.
When it comes to the fight game, hype and reality are so intermingled that it becomes impossible to determine what side of the line anyone is straddling during a profanity-laced answer on a conference call. It’s as hopeless as guessing the exact moment this White-Ortiz feud began.
Not to mention as tedious.
That’s the point. Ortiz might be preparing for the final fight of his contract at UFC 84 on Saturday at the MGM Grand; might be this close to ending a relationship that helped make him a mixed martial arts legend while also aiding the maturation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship becoming the world’s most powerful product of its kind; might believe the oddsmakers are dense for favoring Lyoto Machida in their light heavyweight tussle; and might dream about receiving extravagant free-agent offers afterward, but he is now like all others who exist under White’s authoritative thumb.
Capitalism is great if you have the juice to make it work. The whole idea about a system characterized by investments and production and pricing of goods and services being determined through competition in a free market. It’s good stuff.
It’s also not that long a jump to dictatorship, which is what happened with the growth of UFC under the leadership of its president, who a friend of mine fittingly described Wednesday as "the white Don King who happens to be bald."
"Dana White is a complete monster, a controlling guy who wants his hands in everything," Ortiz said. "He’s a bully. He has always been about the power. He wants everything focused on him. UFC is a great company. They just have a monster running it."
Two things were inevitable as UFC progressed into this giant of a brand: Its better fighters, its collective faces of the sport, weren’t going to forever accept strict restrictions on their earning potential and possible opponents; and people with more money than God were going to copy the model and form their own MMA companies.
White doesn’t care about either. Nor should he. Like it. Detest it. It’s reality, the result of success he helped construct.
His company can keep Randy Couture tied up in court proceedings for years, or at least until the heavyweight champion is too old to fight his dream matchup against Fedor Emelianenko. White can cut fighters quicker than you blink, which he has done more and more lately. He can stage arguably the best UFC card in history Saturday and yet not schedule the one participant to today’s news conference every media member wants to interview, merely because he knows Ortiz is apt to bash him and the company.
Stupid? You bet.
Seconds of sleep White will lose over it: zero.
It’s the same with this whole network television angle. There might come a time when owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta tell White to give in a bit and relinquish some power when negotiating with a CBS, but for now, you can bet many mainstream fans who happen past the EliteXC show on May 31 will think they’re watching UFC. They will assume new sensation Kimbo Slice is employed by it. The same goes for any Affliction or HDNet fights. UFC is still the windshield and all others mere bugs on it for now.
Ortiz was once a great fighter, a champion who made millions of dollars standing under the UFC umbrella, a central figure in the company’s history and that of his sport.
But he also speaks of being an astute businessman. If so, he should have realized where the road would ultimately lead, that it has never been about fighters. It has always been about the brand, and the whole idea of his resume not earning the respect it deserves means nothing to the guy he calls a monster. Nor should it. Business. Replaceable parts. Like it. Detest it. It’s reality.
"It’s time for me to forget about Dana White, to move on after 11 years of building my legacy and helping UFC become a household name," Ortiz said. "It’s time to show everyone what I am worth. Dana can just go fly around in his jet and act like a superstar. He has always considered anyone who speaks out as a threat. That’s fine. I guess being a bully makes him feel better about himself."
My guess is he couldn’t care less.
Ed Graney’s column is published Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. He can be reached at 383-4618 or firstname.lastname@example.org.