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Tito Ortiz's UFC 133 Dilemma Spotlights Reward vs. Risk in Late-Notice Fights

<! mediaid=4294205 AP: img vspace="4" hspace="4" border="1" align="right" alt="Tito Ortiz before UFC 132" src="" />Less than two weeks ago, Tito Ortiz arrived in Las Vegas like any other visitor looking to beat the odds. But the game he was playing wasn't poker or baccarat, it was a real-life gamble for his livelihood. He had already been marked for dismissal, a pink slip waiting for him at the completion of a match which odds suggested he had little chance of winning. Though he was a onetime UFC champion standing across the cage from a fighter who had just barely scratched his way into the division's top 10, Ortiz was considered a massive underdog.

He wasn't just competing against an opponent, he was fighting for his job. And with a stunning win, he saved it. But Ortiz didn't have much time to celebrate his Vegas longshot. Within days, he was faced with the difficult proposition of facing Rashad Evans with less than four weeks to prepare.

After initially declining the opportunity, he changed his mind. Win or lose, it is the correct choice.

First off, let's just point out that the decision is no easy one for any number of reasons. While Ortiz faced some immediate backlash for his initial rejection of the fight, we don't yet know his specific reasoning. Fighters put much of their real lives aside during 8-10 week training camps. That means less time with significant others, children, business interests, etc. Ortiz may have made commitments to catch up on some of the things he was missing out on while preparing for Bader. It's easy to suggest that dropping everything for the next four weeks would be a snap when it's not your life, your family and your schedule.

Ortiz was apparently able to put all of it aside. How?

"I didn't ask him. I didn't give a s---," White said on Thursday. "I was just happy he was taking it. I wanted to get off the phone with him as quick as I could before he changed his mind."

When other factors are gone, you're left with debating the risk of facing Evans on short notice vs. losing the momentum of that upset win in record time. While taking a short-notice fight can be a complex decision for a fighter, in the minds of the fans, it is a simple risk-reward analysis.

So let's look at it this way: What would Ortiz gain by winning, and what would he lose out on if he fell to defeat?

When you examine it in these terms, it becomes clear that Ortiz has more to gain than to lose.

The first thing he gains is simple: money. For his UFC 132 fight with Ryan Bader, Ortiz earned a base salary of $450,000, as well as a $75,000 bonus for Submission of the Night. In the leadup to the fight, Ortiz repeatedly mentioned that he took a pay cut to stay in the UFC, so it's likely that he either no longer gets a percentage of pay-per-view revenue, or has a reduced percentage from his previous contract.

Still, we're talking about serious coin. But fighters don't always make decisions based on cash alone, so Ortiz would also consider the benefits of a potential win.

As previously mentioned, two weeks ago, he was on a short leash, with his career nearly over. Defeating Bader was a strong win, but a single victory in his last six outings does little to move him closer to his stated goal of recapturing the light-heavyweight championship that was last around his waist in 2003.

Should he upset Evans -- and Ortiz is again a massive underdog -- it would be a giant step in that direction. Suddenly, after failing to win in five fights over four-and-a-half years, he would boast two wins over two top 10 light-heavyweights in little over one month.

Remember, Evans was considered the No. 1 contender to face champ Jon Jones before a Jones' injury reshuffled the deck. While revisionist historians may suggest that Bader was not quite as good as once believed, an Ortiz win over Evans can not be discounted in that way or otherwise ignored. Evans has faced and beaten big names, he's a former champion and he's well respected. A win over him would mean something.

If Ortiz wins, everything changes. He's back in the mix. He's on a streak. It's crazy to write this, but one of the loudest, brashest fighters in MMA history will become the sport's most unlikely feel-good underdog story. And maybe he gets those pay-per-view points back.

"I'll tell you what," White said on Thursday afternoon. "If Tito beats Rashad, we'll talk."

What does he risk? How does he suffer by losing? Not much. Since he is doing the UFC a huge favor by stepping on short notice, it is assured he will not be cut if he loses. So he's guaranteed two paydays by taking this fight. If he loses in a close fight -- and historically, Ortiz isn't easily blown out -- that might actually serve to show people that the Bader win was no fluke. Even if he gets controlled for three rounds, well, it came against the No. 1 contender on less than four weeks' notice. There's no huge shame in that.

One crazy note from all this mess is that people often criticize Ortiz for how inactive he's been over the last few years, but since the start of 2009, Evans has fought three times, with eight rounds of cage time. Ortiz has fought three times, with seven rounds of cage time. Evans is 2-1 with two decisions and was knocked out once. Ortiz is 1-2 with one stoppage victory, and one of his losses by split-decision. Perhaps most importantly, Ortiz is coming off a full camp, a win, and should be relatively close to peak shape. Meanwhile, Evans hasn't fought in over 14 months, his longest layoff since joining the UFC in 2005. It's certainly possible that he struggles with timing after so much time away. Given all those factors, it may not be so crazy to suggest that maybe these guys aren't as far apart as the odds suggest.

Ortiz has little to lose in this late-notice scenario. He will wake up on the morning of August 6 far from a title shot. When he walks out of the cage later that night, he'll either still be far from it -- meaning no difference -- or he'll have leapfrogged over a slew of mid-tier fighters after beating the rightful No. 1 contender. Either way, he'll still have at least one more payday coming.

"If Tito beats Rashad on August 6, how could anybody deny ... he beats a top 10 contender in Ryan Bader and then comes in and knocks off the guy many people believe is the No. 1 contender for the title," White said. "It would definitely put him in the mix. I wouldn't say he's necessarily the No. 1 contender after this fight, but he's top three."

When the potential rewards of winning far outweigh the risks of losing, the decision really makes itself. Ortiz accepted a fight that will be difficult and grinding, but with it comes the chance to move farther and faster up the rankings than any other opportunity would provide. Some people would view a short-notice offer to fight Evans as an unnecessary risk. But when you peel back the layers in this case, it's clear it's more like a gift.

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