by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz is not expected to return to action until sometime in 2008 according to a statement released by the former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion on Thursday.

It was expected that Ortiz would fight in October or November in a rematch with Rashad Evans, whom he fought to a draw in July.

With the recent announcement that Evans would now be facing Michael Bisping as the main event of UFC 78 in New Jersey, everyone started to wonder where exactly that put Ortiz.

“Right now I am totally focused on training,” he stated. “I have always had a reputation for being the best prepared fighter in any match I’ve ever entered and I intend to maintain that reputation.”

Ortiz has been dealing with multiple injuries; including a back ailment that has plagued him since around the time of his loss to current UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture in 2003.

Contract negotiations with the UFC have also been ongoing as Ortiz has only one fight left on his current deal, but the California native indicated he is positive a new deal will get done.

Recently Ortiz disclosed that he no longer deals with UFC president Dana White, whom he has a long-standing feud with and now speaks directly with owner Lorenzo Fertitta.

“I’m currently working very closely with the UFC to plan my next fight, which you can be sure will not disappoint my fans,” said Ortiz. “It looks like I will fight again in early 2008 and when I do, I will be 100% prepared to crush my opponent.”

No word on whom that opponent might be.

Ortiz also stated that he is planning a return trip to Iraq later this year to visit U.S. troops, something he has done numerous times in the past as a part of the United Service Organizations’ efforts to support the soldiers.