Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008 | 1:30 p.m.
A handful of Affliction fighters sat next to each other on a make-shift stage at Planet Hollywood willing and ready to talk about their upcoming fights in Las Vegas this fall, but the one man that bustling tourists and media members crammed onto the casino floor to see and hear Wednesday afternoon was nowhere to be found.
"I say rumor today, because that is all that it is. As of this moment, there has been no substantive conversation taking place with Ortiz," said Cohen, at an announcement for Affliction’s “Day of Reckoning” event scheduled for Oct. 11 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
"The only conversation with Tito, took place yesterday between "Don" Trump Jr., Tito Ortiz and myself. If and when he's released from previous contractional obligations, Affliction would be interested in a long-term relationship," continued Cohen.
"Based upon the strong personal relationship that exists between Tito Ortiz and Mr. Trump, coupled with the success of Affliction's last event leads many to believe, as do I, this would be the best place that Tito Ortiz could fight and showcase his amazing talents."
The addition of a fighter with the name recognition of Ortiz, would certainly add legitimacy to the clothing company's foray into the fight game, just like having Fedor Emelianenko headline Affliction’s opening event in Anaheim. And by holding the second bout in Las Vegas, the UFC's home turf, Affliction is saying its not scared to compete with the MMA's top league — which has had a stranglehold on the sport.
"At this point anybody who comes out and puts on an event is competition to the UFC," said Affliction Vice President Tom Atencio. “I’ve said it time and time and time again, the UFC is the Q-tip of the industry. I can never take away what they’ve done for the industry. You would be a fool to try and take away what they’ve done for the industry.”
Yet at the same time — a handful of top fighters, Ortiz included — say they have better opportunities, financial and fighting-wise, outside the UFC.
“There’s so much money to be made right now in mixed martial arts and it’s all about the fighters trying to make that money,” said Ortiz in an interview with Sports Illustrated on Tuesday.
Ortiz, whose 11-year contract with the UFC expired on Monday, also said a pending deal between him and Affliction would be “a ground-breaking record contract.”
“It’s going to be a long-term deal where I put my heart and soul into that company and help build them,” Ortiz told SI.com’s Arash Markazi. “They’re going to bring me on, not just as a fighter but also doing some of the back work also.”
Cohen, however, said he would not discuss Ortiz’ comments with SI and called the rumors of him becoming the highest paid MMF fighter in history, “pure nonsense.”
“I don’t respond to it. There is no conversation. There is no contract,” he said. “The most that has occurred, took place yesterday — very preliminary talks.
“Basically we talked about Tito’s interest in coming to fight with Affliction. There have been no terms discussed so far to date. We have a face-to-face meeting coming up with him in the next couple of days.”
The only thing certain on Wednesday (rumor’s also circulated that Ortiz’ girlfriend, porn queen Jenna Jameson, is pregnant) at Planet Hollywood is that Affliction officials are excited for their sophomore showing in Las Vegas — with or without Ortiz.
“I haven’t spoken with him, but of course it would be awesome if he signed with us. But you can’t take away from the fighters we have in this event,” said Atencio, rattling off the names of the competitors on the “Day of Reckoning” card, including headliners Andrei Arlovski and Josh Barnett.
“These are huge fights. They're big events on their own.”