Tito Ortiz and Wanderlei Silva used to be the stars of mixed martial arts.
Ortiz, along with UFC Hall of Famers Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell helped Zuffa turn a fledgling UFC promotion in the early 2000s into the global phenomenon it has become today.
Silva was making his money and fame on the other side of the world in Japan when he starred in PRIDE Fighting Championships.
Tomorrow night at UFC 132 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, both will try to prove their current relevance — and neither is ready just yet to hang up their five-ounce gloves.
“I still think I have a lot more fight in me, I want to fight,” said the 36-year-old Ortiz, who is on a five-fight winless steak. His last victory came against Ken Shamrock in October of 2006.
“I’m going out on my own terms.”
Actually “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” will only be able to control his own destiny with a win, as UFC president Dana White said at Thursday’s press conference: “He absolutely has to get this win to continue on.”
While the Las Vegas-based Silva, who owns and operates his own gym in Sin City, isn’t facing a must-win situation, there are almost as many question marks about him as Ortiz.
Before his victory over Michael Bisping at UFC 110 in February 2010, which marked his debut at middleweight, the Brazilian had lost five of six bouts. Prior to that Silva had lost just five times in his previous 38 matches.
After the Bisping win, Silva — known by his large legion of fans as “The Ax Murderer” because of his big-time knockouts when he was in PRIDE — suffered rib and knee injuries that kept him out of the octagon for 16 months.
“This is not so easy because I’m a competitive guy,” said Silva who takes on another veteran fighter in Chris Leben in the co-main event. “I had a really tough year. … But I have unbelievable support from my fans.”
Now completely healthy and re-energized the soon-to-be 35-year-old believes he’s not only ready to show the MMA world he’s back to his old-self against Leben, but has several bouts left in him.
“My plans are to fight for the next five years. I want 10 more fights,” Silva said. “That’s my plan. I don’t know what’s God’s plan.”
Like Silva, fan favorite Urijah Faber is in no jeopardy of being cut no matter his performance. But much like the other older superstars on this card the 32-year-old Faber — who has lost three consecutive title fights — could see his best opportunity to recapture a belt in tomorrow’s main event against bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz.
“It means a lot to me,” said Faber of what it would mean to cross over from World Extreme Cagefighting, where he was the former featherweight champ and media star, to winning a title in the UFC.
“It’s going to be a war and I’m ready for a battle.”
Faber handed Cruz the only loss of his career with a first-round guillotine in March of 2007, and after the win made some comments that irked the current champ.
The two have been on a collision course ever since and the war of words reached a boiling point this week with Faber calling Cruz jealous, and Cruz responding that “The California Kid” was too arrogant.
Fans definitely sided with Faber at Friday night’s weigh-in, but the boos only seemed to motivate Cruz even more.
“I’ve been waiting four years for this,” he said. “All you fans who are booing, get ready to boo some more.”