(My qualifications? HERE’S my stinking qualifications!)
It looks like we’ll have to start drafting up new t-shirts to falsely promise you guys, because according to a recent interview with MMAFighting, UFC President Dana White was rather frank about his desire for both former light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz and former lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn to be placed in the UFC Hall of Fame in the near future. Though the jury is still out on whether or not Penn will return to the octagon following his hasty retirement in the aftermath of UFC 137, DW had nothing but positives to say about “The Prodigy” when asked on the possibility of his placement in the HOF:
Definitely. The thing about B.J. Penn is that what he brought to the lightweight division, there was a point in time when we first bought this company when people thought guys in the lighter weight divisions couldn’t be stars and couldn’t see pay-per-views and couldn’t cross over. B.J. Penn was definitely that first crossover guy for us. He’ll be back. It’s tough, when there are 16,000 people in the arena chanting your name, it’s tough to walk away from that. B.J. Penn is a fighter. You hear some of these guys, and Tito was one of these guys, he said he wanted to be famous. B.J. Penn is a fighter.
So there you have it, Penn will join long-time rival Matt Hughes, as well as Randy Couture, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Mark Coleman, Royce Gracie, Chuck Liddell, and Tapout co-founder Charles “Mask” Lewis in that deluxe octagon in the sky. After a pair of unsuccessful title bids at 155, Penn won the welterweight title in his welterweight debut by defeating the then untouchable Hughes by first round rear-naked choke at UFC 46. Penn would vacate the UFC shortly thereafter, citing a lack of challenging fights, and would not taste UFC gold again until beating the ever-loving shit out of Joe Stevenson at UFC 80 to claim the vacant lightweight strap. He would defend the belt three times until being upended by Frankie Edgar at UFC 112.
When addressing the possibility of Tito Ortiz joining those illustrious ranks, White did not shy away from the pair’s well-documented rocky history, and in fact stated that, in retrospect, it helped make the UFC what it is today:
Despite my personal problems with Tito, he belongs in. He was the champion when we first bought this thing. The fact that Tito is still here, Tito and I have had our moments, but it doesn’t change what he did for the company. The beef between me and Tito, Chuck and Tito, the fact is, that played a huge role in helping making this thing as big as it is.
In case you’ve all forgotten, there was a time when Tito Ortiz was more than just a punching bag for future and former world champions and the butt of endless commentary based jokes. After decisioning Wanderlei Silva and winning the light heavyweight championship at UFC 25, Ortiz defended the strap more times than any fighter in the division’s history (5), scoring victories over the likes of Evan Tanner, Yuki Kondo, and Vladimir Matyushenko. Recently, Ortiz announced that his trilogy-completion bout against Forrest Griffin at UFC 148 would be his last bout as a professional.
And even Donald Trump will tell you that Ortiz is a hell of a businessman. Aside from being one of the most consistent pay-per-view draws in the promotion’s history, Ortiz’s trilogy with Ken Shamrock as well as his epic pair of bouts with “The Iceman” have been responsible for more UFC merchandising profits than any other fighter can lay claim to.
So what do you think of these additions to the HOF, Potato Nation? And secondly, who do you think deserves a place in the Hall of Fame beside these two gents in the near future? Be advised, the first person to say Jon Jones is going to get their ass whipped.