LAS VEGAS – On Saturday, the UFC Hall of Fame welcomes its ninth member with Tito Ortiz taking part in an induction ceremony just hours prior to his UFC 148 bout with Forrest Griffin.
While few MMA pundits have questioned Ortiz's right to be in the UFC Hall of Fame, many have questioned exactly what criteria is used when determining who deserves such an honor.
"Guys that have been inducted are guys who have contributed to the growth of the sport and the UFC over the last 11 years," White today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "That's the way you could really look at it.
"It's not just what they accomplished inside the octagon. It's what they did outside, too – guys who have absolutely busted their ass and flown around the world and taken time away from their family and other things they were doing to help build the sport and help build the UFC."
While there is not a physical UFC Hall of Fame, the honor was established in 2003 with the induction of the promotion's first champion, Royce Gracie, as well as early MMA pioneer Ken Shamrock. Later ceremonies brought fighters Dan Severn, Randy Couture, Mark Coleman, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes and a non-fighter, TapouT co-founder Charles "Mask" Lewis, into the fraternity.
Recent inductions have endured scrutiny from fans and pundits who wonder exactly how fighters are selected and point to some of the sport's bygone superstars as athletes who deserve the recognition. Chief among those fighters cited are former UFC champions Pat Miletich and Frank Shamrock, both current Strikeforce broadcasters and both men who have endured their share of conflict with White.
But the UFC boss doesn't group the two together. In fact, he believes Miletich may very well someday take a spot alongside Ortiz and the others.
"Miletich is a guy who contributed to this," White said. "At the time when we bought this company, Miletich had probably the biggest and the best camp in the entire sport. At that time, Pat's camp was huge, and all the top guys came out of Miletich.
"Pat was actually the champion, and he lost to Carlos Newton when we bought the company. He was Matt Hughes' coach. Jens Pulver. Tim Sylvia. A guy like Miletich could (be in the Hall of Fame)."
Shamrock, however, is an entirely different story. And while the five-time UFC veteran and former UFC light heavyweight champ has often gone out of his way to criticize White, calling him a "douchebag" as recently as this past week, the fiery UFC boss insists the recipe for Hall of Fame induction is simple: win fights and help spread the sport around the globe.
Personal conflict? White said Ortiz's induction proves that's no issue. But White doesn't believe Shamrock's efforts outside of the octagon merit Hall of Fame consideration.
"Since the day I was born, I've never fought with anybody like I've fought with Tito Ortiz," White said. "But Tito Ortiz will go into the Hall of Fame. It is what it is, but if somebody thinks Frank Shamrock should be in there before some of the guys that have been inducted already and guys that have done so much for the UFC? I'm not going to put Matt Hughes or Chuck Liddell or these guys that have done incredible amounts of work for the sport, for the brand, for everything? I'm going to put Frank Shamrock in there before these guys? A guy that does nothing but bad-mouth us since the day we bought the company and really isn't a good guy at all on any level? He should be there before these guys that busted their ass for the UFC?
"Maybe there's going to be a Mixed Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Maybe Frank Shamrock has a place there that makes more sense because in the 11 years that I've been here, that jackass hasn't done one thing as far as I've seen to further the sport or the UFC."