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UFC welcomes back Tito, still no Fedor

Dana White announces big news for the UFC, but frustrated by talks with Fedor

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The Associated Press

Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight Tito Ortiz weighs-in on Dec. 29, 2006, in Las Vegas for his title fight against then champion Chuck Liddell.

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Mixed martial arts heavyweight fighters Josh Barnett (left) and Russia's Fedor Emelianenko appear in New York on June 3, 2009, during a press conference for Affliction's August event in Anaheim, Calif. The event and fighting promotion were canceled after Barnett tested positive for a banned substance.

Dana White has been on a “bury-the-hatchet” tour over the last couple weeks, including kiss-and-makeup sessions with former nemesis Tito Ortiz and formerly banned clothing company Affliction.

Unfortunately for UFC fans it seems a new enemy may have replaced the old ones as Fedor Emelianenko is no closer to signing with the premiere mixed martial arts promotion.

The president of the UFC announced major news over a conference call Friday, including the welcoming back of Ortiz, a new main event for UFC 103 in Dallas and a television deal that will bring free fights to the United Kingdom and Ireland over the ESPN network.

However he also had a few not-so-nice things to say about Emelianenko and his promotion company, M-1 Global, who White had met with in California last week to attempt to lure into the UFC.

“The fans really want to see this fight, I want to see how good this guy really is against the best of the world,” White said. “But these guys want to come in and co-promote? How the hell are they going to co-promote?

"The UFC has built this entire industry. Basically they come in and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this guy that some people say might be the best heavyweight in the world and for that, we want half of your business.’ Okay. That (expletive) probably works in Russia but not here.”

White says he has done “everything in his power” to persuade Emelianenko to join the largest MMA organization in the world but that M-1 Global refuses to sign a deal that doesn't allow them to co-promote events.

While those talks seemed to reach a stalemate, apparently talks with Ortiz went better than anyone could have expected.

In a meeting at Ortiz's private home in Huntington Beach, Calif., White says that all the bad blood that forced Ortiz to pull out of the UFC last year was put to rest.

“Tito and I have a history that everybody knows,” said White, who used to manage Ortiz before the two had a public falling out. “Tito is still a guy fans want to see fight, he’s still a guy fans care about. We literally squashed everything and are ready to move forward. Tito will retire in the UFC.”

Ortiz, who had back surgery to fix an injury he says has plagued him since fighting Ken Shamrock in July 2006, said that he was extremely happy to be back in the UFC and that it was his dedication to his fans that made the decision easy.

“I think time cures everything, Dana came to me and apologized for everything that had happened,” Ortiz said. “It was about competition for me, my fans deserve the best Tito Ortiz.

“If you look at the last three light heavyweight champions: Forrest Griffin I beat, Rashad Evans I thought I beat but they ruled it a draw and I almost submitted Lyoto Machida. I want to get that world title around my waist again.”

Other big news included the scratch of a Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson fight as the main event for UFC 103 on Sept. 19 in Dallas. The two had fought to a split decision Henderson victory in January and according to White, fans weren’t interested in a rematch.

Franklin will still appear at UFC 103 to face Vitor Belfort. Henderson is now first in line to face middleweight champion Anderson Silva following his upcoming battle with Griffin at UFC 101.

“Fans were pissed, there was some backlash, people didn’t like it,” White said. “So we went out and signed Vitor Belfort, so he’s fighting Franklin in Dallas in September. Henderson is next in line to fight for Anderson. If Anderson doesn’t get busted up next week it could happen real soon.”

Belfort has won four straight fights, including a 37-second knockout of Matt Lindland in the Affliction organization in January.

“Vitor’s been on a streak again, and he’s back mentally and physically,” said White. “His contract came up and we were interested. I’ve been hinting around at bringing him back, we got it done and it worked out. I think him and Rich is a fun fight.”

As far as the network deal, ESPN is set to bring UFC events to UK and Irish fans starting with UFC 101 in early August.

There has been speculation that a U.S. deal could be on the way but White refused to comment on where that possible deal was at.

“I’m confident that were going to get a network deal done,” he said. “We’ve always said that once we get the right offer we’ll be on network television. We haven’t got the right offer yet.”

Despite all the breaking news of the organization, it was the news it didn’t break that still seemed to receive the most attention.

While White said that the deal with Emelianenko wasn’t dead and that “they could call me right now,” he became frustrated towards the end of the call that a fighter he perceives as dodging the biggest fights would be made into such a big deal.

“For the fans or any of the media to call him the best in the world, let alone the pound-for-pound, is (expletive) insanity,” White said. “He won’t give the fights the fans want to see. We’ve done deals with the best fighters in the world the last 10 years, there is absolutely no reason why Fedor shouldn’t be fighting in the UFC.

“Right now, I’m over the deal. To be honest with you, I don’t even want to talk about him anymore. Do you really give a (expletive) that much about a guy that won’t step up and give you what you want to see?”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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