Tito Ortiz will join play-by-play announcer Sean Wheelock and color commentator Jimmy Smith to call the action at “Day of Reckoning,” which features a bout between world-ranked heavyweights Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski. The Wheelock-Smith team currently calls the shots for M-1 Global, which airs a weekly show on HDNet and will be collaborating with Affliction on the Jan. 24 event.
“This has nothing to do with me fighting for Affliction,” said Ortiz at a press conference on Wednesday for the pending event. “I’ve been fighting for 11 years, so I think I know a thing or two about fighting.”
Ortiz, 33, satisfied a multi-fight contract in May with the UFC, where he has been one of the promotion’s top-three draws for the last 11 years. He said he is currently waiting out a non-compete renegotiation period with the Las Vegas organization that ends in June.
A public feud between UFC president Dana White and the polarizing Ortiz has been well documented, to the point where Ortiz commented that he would not re-sign with the UFC on multiple occasions.
The popular former UFC light heavyweight champion’s decision to work with the rival promotion could be interpreted as a step towards him potentially signing with the fledging organization in the coming months. However, it might be safer to say he is still playing the field.
Ortiz underwent spinal-fusion back surgery in October and told HDNet’s Inside MMA in November that he will likely not fight again until July 2009.
“I’m at about 40 percent,” Ortiz told Sherdog.com on Wednesday. “I’ve regained a lot of mobility just in the last two weeks.”
Ortiz said the surgery appears to be a complete success and he has initial plans to fight for the next four years.
A return to the promotion where he started must still be considered a viable option though. Ortiz’s December 2006 rematch against former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell remains the highest grossing pay-per-view in the sport’s history, netting a reported 1,000,080 buys.
One of the first bona fide stars of the sport, Ortiz has enjoyed mainstream exposure on Donald Trump’s celebrity season of “The Apprentice” on NBC in 2008. Ortiz and longtime girlfriend Jenna Jameson are expecting twins in April.
Ortiz (15-6-1) dropped a unanimous decision to Lyoto Machida (13-0) at UFC 84 “Ill Will” on May 24 in Las Vegas. It was his second loss in three fights.