UFC President Dana White made several announcements during a Friday press conference, including confirmation that Vitor Belfort will be returning to the Octagon to headline UFC 103 against Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson is next in line for a middleweight title shot against Anderson Silva, and Tito Ortiz is officially returning to the UFC, likely facing Mark Coleman at the promotion’s New Year’s show.
White opened the call by addressing the UFC’s attempt to sign Fedor Emelianenko following the recent-collapse of Affliction’s MMA promotion, saying the UFC offered him an “amazing” deal that won’t be matched anywhere else and satisfied all requests except co-promotion. Though White expected a deal to get done, the two sides have thus far been unable to reach an agreement, though he says Fedor’s management at M-1 Global can call him anytime to accept the offer.
The first announcement by the UFC President was the signing of Belfort, who was scheduled to fight at Affliction’s recently-canceled “Trilogy” event against Jorge Santiago, a winner of four-straight who returns to the UFC for the first time since 2005 and moves up to 195-pounds* to face the light heavyweight contender Franklin.
White also announced that Henderson, Franklin’s original opponent for the UFC 103 headliner who is coming off a recent knockout of Michael Bisping, will instead wait to meet middleweight title-holder Anderson Silva in his next fight. A date for the matchup has not yet been set pending Silva’s fight against Forrest Griffin next Saturday at UFC 101, but could take place “very soon” if Silva suffers little damage in the bout.
Tito Ortiz’s return to the UFC was also made official during the press conference, with White saying the former light heavyweight champ could fight the Hall of Famer Coleman at the UFC’s New Year’s show.
Other announcements included:
- The UFC has signed a three-year deal with ESPN’s new UK network, with fights slated to be broadcast free and in HD in both the UK and Ireland.
- Former Affliction fighters Belfort, Paul Daley, Paul Buentello, Ben Rothwell, Chase Gormley, and Dan Lauzon were confirmed to have signed with the UFC, with Javier Vazquez, LC Davis, and Mark Hominick are signed to the WEC. Up to 10 more former Affliction fighters remain in talks to join the promotions.
Minute-by-minute notes from the media conference call, including additional details on the UFC’s negotiations with Fedor and other news and notes, can be found below.
2:00pm ET: The UFC conference calls generally start a few minutes after their scheduled star time so stay tuned as we’ll be underway momentarily.
2:03pm: The call is now underway.
2:05pm: The UFC has signed Vitor Belfort, who will headline UFC 103 against Rich Franklin. Franklin’s previously-scheduled opponent Dan Henderson is next in line to fight Anderson Silva, according to White.
2:07pm: The UFC has signed a 3-year deal with ESPN UK, starting with UFC 101 on August 8th.
2:08pm: White confirms that Tito Ortiz is returning to the UFC and will retire with the promotion.
2:10pm: Dana confirms the signing of a number of Affliction fighters, says many are signed with UFC and WEC with up to 10 more still in talks. Paul Daley, Ben Rothwell, Chase Gormley, and Dan Lauzon confirmed to have signed with the UFC, with Javier Vazquez, LC Davis, and Mark Hominick all signed to the WEC.
2:12pm: Ortiz, who is also on the call, says he was just cleared last week to resume full training following back surgery and hopes to fight before the end of the year, specifically mentioning the New Year’s show.
2:14pm: Belfort-Franklin will be at light heavyweight (205 pounds)
2:15pm: White says Mark Coleman is likely to be Ortiz’s first opponent when he returns, says Ortiz won’t get any easy fights but will be rusty after his time off.
2:17pm: Asked about what “co-promotion” means, White says M-1 wanted half but would not benefit the UFC.
2:18pm: Asked about an ESPN deal in the US, White says they’re always negotiating with networks but offers not details on rumored negotiations.
2:19pm: The Nate Marquardt-Demian Maia winner is “in the mix” at 185-pounds, but Henderson is definitely next.
2:25pm: Dana White says UFC “can’t be stopped”, is coming to TV in Russia and Japan among others.
2:29pm: Timeline for Henderson-Silva depends on Silva’s fight with Griffin, but could be “very soon” if Silva sustains little damage.
2:30pm: The UFC has “no interest” in Arlovski or Sylvia.
2:30pm: White says he’s working to fulfill his promise of base jumping off the Mandalay Bay since UFC 100 surpassed 1.5 million buys.
2:32pm: White says he “doesn’t know” about a rematch between Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell.
2:33pm: White says he’s “ready to make a deal” to bring Fedor Emelianenko to the UFC and was confident deal was going to happen, says M-1 can call him anytime.
2:38pm: White says major deal which was being worked on last month in Los Angeles should be finalized soon, but offers no details.
2:39pm: White says he “buried the hatchet” with Affliction, including Tom Atencio.
2:41pm: UFC 100 drew 25 million viewers, UFC 101 episode of UFC Unleashed had 18 million viewers in Mexico. Live event in the works for the country.
2:44pm: Co-promotion with M-1 will “never happen,” partially due to the Fertitta’s gaming license.
2:54pm: Dana says UFC showed Fedor and M-1 “nothing but respect,” offer allowed Fedor to fight Sambo “every Thursday night” if he wanted to.
2:57pm: Ortiz calls Strikeforce’s Scott Coker “an awesome guy,” but says there’s not enough competition in Strikeforce.
2:59pm: Dana says unlike boxing, UFC would put big fights on network TV if deal gets done.
3:00pm: Ortiz reiterates that contract with UFC runs until his career is over, wants to fight as long as possible.
* Dana White announced that Franklin-Belfort would be at 205-pounds, but Franklin updated his Twitter to say that the fight will be at a 195-pound catchweight at Belfort’s request.