Tito Ortiz has returned to the UFC. Fedor Emelianenko doesn't appear close to joining him.
UFC president Dana White announced a deal Friday to bring back Ortiz, the popular mixed martial artist who angrily left the league last year in a bitter public dispute with White over issues of respect and money.
The former light heavyweight champion has recovered from major back surgery, and plans to fight late this year or on the UFC's Jan. 2, 2010, card in Las Vegas.
"They just gave me an offer I couldn't refuse, and made up for the things that were done before," said Ortiz, whose celebrity has outpaced his octagon accomplishments since his last UFC victory in October 2006. "You'll never hear about money out of my mouth ever again."
White also said his efforts to sign Emelianenko this week proved fruitless because the Russian heavyweight's handlers are demanding a hefty co-promotion deal. Emelianenko is widely considered the world's top fighter in his weight class, but has no high-profile home after the collapse of the Affliction promotion last week.
Although White refused to rule out a future deal, he sounded frustrated with his inability to bring the most tantalizing fighter outside the UFC into his league, particularly after the surge in MMA attention and revenue created by the landmark UFC 100 card three weeks ago.
"We tried everything we could possibly do to get Fedor into the UFC," said White, who is eager to match Emelianenko against UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
"We came to the table willing to give up just about anything except the co-promotion," White added. "We offered him the most amazing deal. We guarantee he will not be offered a deal like this in mixed martial arts."
The 34-year-old Ortiz might have reached a similar conclusion after flirting with Affliction, Strikeforce and others while searching for a way back into MMA. White and Ortiz both had to bury considerable differences to reunite.
"Me and Tito hated each other," White said. "We sat down in a room like men and worked this thing out. Tito Ortiz will retire in the UFC."
White said Ortiz's first fight likely would be against Mark Coleman, the 44-year-old veteran who revitalized his career with a win over Stephan Bonner at UFC 100.
"The best fighters are in the UFC," Ortiz said. "It's the best promotion in the world today, and that's why I'm here. I know they're going worldwide into Mexico and China and the U.K., and I want to be the part of it."
Emelianenko doesn't _ at least not yet.
Believing the UFC has done all the hard work in raising MMA to its current level of popularity and profitability, White doesn't allow the type of co-promotion, co-branding deal demanded by officials from M-1 Global, which is part-owned by Emelianenko. M-1 Global president Vadim Finkelstein wasn't available for comment while en route back to Russia after the negotiations in Los Angeles.
"Why would I let anybody come in and co-promote with us?" White asked. "It's insanity to turn down a deal like this. To turn down a deal like this, you don't care about fighting the best in the world."
Emelianenko has fought mostly with the Pride promotion in Japan, where MMA is wildly popular. Last year, he won fights against Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski for Affliction in Anaheim, Calif.
But his fight with Josh Barnett was scrapped last week when Barnett tested positive for steroids and couldn't get a license to fight in California.
White is in the process of making deals with most of Affliction's most prominent fighters, including Vitor Belfort, the Brazilian light heavyweight who once beat Randy Couture and briefly held the UFC title. White said Belfort will fight Rich Franklin in the main event at UFC 103 in Dallas on Sept. 19, bumping Dan Henderson.
White also announced a three-year deal with ESPN to show UFC events in Britain, starting with next weekend's UFC 101 in Philadelphia, which will air Aug. 13 in England and Ireland.