Tito Ortiz is jumping from the UFC to Bellator MMA, and he could be bringing something very important with him — professional wrestling fans.
Bellator is the second-largest MMA league in the country, but often operates in the shadow of the larger and more recognized UFC.
On Wednesday, Bellator MMA announced that Ortiz would be facing his friend and former training partner Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in Bellator’s first pay-per-view main event. The event takes place November 2 in Long Beach, California.
A day after the announcement, Tito Ortiz appeared on TNA Impact, the professional wrestling program that leads in to Bellator’s first season on Spike.
It was Tito’s second appearance on Impact, one that came with quite a buildup through some mysterious Twitter posts and YouTube videos.
As MMA Weekly pointed out, the connection between professional wrestling and MMA seems a logical one.
“Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz have always presented themselves in the MMA world with a professional wrestling sort of persona,” the report noted. “It only makes sense that each would find his way into the Bellator cage hand in hand with Impact, affording a tremendous amount of crossover promotional opportunities to beef up Bellator’s inaugural PPV event.”
The announcement was also a coup for Bellator, which has been able to attract some major talent away from its competitor and MMA leading league, the UFC. There had been a rumor that Rampage could be facing Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing match, but he said he wanted this debut in the league to by in a MMA fight.
“I didn’t retire from MMA. But as of now … I’ve left the UFC,” Jackson said. “The UFC didn’t treat me right. I don’t like the way I was treated there.”
With Tito Ortiz and Rampage Jackson on board, Bellator could be poised to present a big challenge to UFC’s popularity. And if Ortiz can help the league tap into the billion-dollar professional wrestling industry’s market, the league can go a lot further.