UFC light heavyweight Tito Ortiz, one of the most recognizable fighters in mixed-martial-arts history, could fight his final UFC bout next weekend at UFC 84.
And if he does, indeed, opt for free agency after the fight, rest assured that EliteXC Live Events President Gary Shaw will be there with a contract in hand.
Shaw, after all, said he thinks he can make Ortiz an even bigger star than he was in the UFC.
"Of all my years in the fight game, I know one thing that I could see, touch, smell and feel, and that is a star and a superstar," Shaw said during a Thursday media call. "Every time I see Tito Ortiz, he wreaks of stardom. I think I can even better his days in the UFC. I think I can reincarnate Ortiz. He is a talented fighter, and he has all the mechanisms that you need to make someone a superstar."
Ortiz's relationship with the UFC has been rocky at best, largely due to his ongoing feud with former manager and now UFC president Dana White.
In late 2007, Ortiz had discussed the possibility of re-signing with the UFC but said he'd only negotiate with UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta -- and not White.
However, as we've inched ever closer to his May 24 bout with undefeated Lyoto Machida -- the final bout on his current contract -- Ortiz's 11-year relationship with the UFC looks more and more likely as though it's coming to an end.
During the UFC's own media call on Thursday, White took some parting shots.
"Tito is a f***ing idiot," White said. "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 s*** when he was a good fighter (but) he's not anymore."
A final-hour contract offer would appear unlikely.
"I have no interest whatsoever in being in the Tito Ortiz business," White said.
The UFC's loss may be EliteXC's gain.
With CBS and Showtime deals, EliteXC could offer Ortiz plenty of exposure. However, Ortiz will likely go where the money is, and it's hard to know what EliteXC is willing to offer. However, don't expect the organization to break the bank for one fighter. They wouldn't even do that for Fedor Emelianenko, arguably the world's top fighter,
"Sometimes deals cannot be made because people are not realistic," Shaw said. "People need to be realistic in order to put fights on. When Fedor wants to fight just anybody for $2 million, that is not realistic for my company."
Shaw, though, remains optimistic about landing Ortiz and even fantasized about a potential main-event bout with EliteXC's prized heavyweight, Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson.
"Can you imagine Tito Ortiz and Kimbo in the cage together one day?" Shaw asked. "My door is open. I hope that he's able to negotiate one day because I would never interfere with a contract. I hope he's sitting right next to me, not across from my desk, but right with me."