When Mitrione was scrapped from the card due to kidney stones, Ortiz said he offered to save the Spike-televised card last month at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.
“I looked over at (Bellator President) Scott Coker, and this was probably two hours before the fight, and he said, ‘You know what? If you’d told me three hours ago, we would have been working on it,’” Ortiz told MMAjunkie Radio.
Ortiz (19-12-1 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) was among three rumored replacements for Mitrione that included Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) and Oli Thompson (17-10 MMA, 0-2 BMMA). Ultimately, the promotion could not get a replacement cleared in time, and the Mitrione (11-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) vs. Emelianenko (36-4 MMA 0-0 BMMA) matchup was rescheduled for the June Bellator 180 pay-per-view.
Only a month prior to the ill-fated headliner, Ortiz had fought his retirement fight against Sonnen, submitting the three-time UFC title challenger in the first round. The win sent Ortiz out on a high note. But the way he saw it, he didn’t have much to lose by putting off his sunset a little longer.
“I said hell with it,” Ortiz said. “I was in fight shape at the time. It was only three weeks after my fight, and I was still in fight shape. If they needed me at that time, it was one time I would have done it.”
One time, though, was all Ortiz was willing to offer after putting his body through so much wear and tear over two decades in MMA. As it turned out, it wasn’t meant to be.
“They sat and thought about it for a good hour-and-a-half and said, ‘We can’t do it that quick,’ and I said alright,” he continued. “It was a one-time chance, and that’s it. I moved on.”
Now, Ortiz is pretty darn happy he’s training a couple times a week rather than a couple times a day.
It would have been quite the feather in his cap if he’d been able to face and defeat Emelianenko, a fighter whose legendary status endures among hardcore MMA fans. The closest the two ever got to facing off was Ortiz’s very awkward in-ring interview of the former PRIDE champ after his knockout of Andrei Arlovski in the now-defunct Affliction.
In Bellator, they came as close as ever to fighting – they just didn’t have enough time.