Former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz was once a force to reckon with in the MMA world. He debuted all the way back in 1997 and dominated Wes Albriton at UFC 13. He currently still holds the record for most defenses of the UFC Light-Heavyweight title, which may soon be broken by Jon Jones.
The Huntington Beach Bad boy was brash, confident and at one point the face of the UFC. When the UFC was brought up in any conversation it was inevitable that Tito Ortiz’s name would come up. His loyalty to the company is clearly documented since all but one of his fights occurred in the UFC.
When he lost to Frank Shamrock on September 24th, 1999 he returned with a vengeance. He went undefeated for four years until his reign as Champion was ended by Randy Couture, who had moved down from Heavyweight. Tito Ortiz was taken down and dominated from start to finish. Shortly after he was knocked out by Chuck Liddell in the second round, and that lead to the great Liddell-Couture trilogy which helped take the UFC to the level it’s reached today.
From there Tito Ortiz went on to have a great fight with Vitor Belfort which he won by split decision and then went on to win a controversial split decision against Forrest Griffin after that. These victories put Tito Ortiz in position to be a coach on the UFC’s reality show “The Ultimate Fighter” with another UFC legend Ken Shamrock. Despite all the hype and banter from both fighters, their rematch only lasted a little over a minute. Amazingly enough they did a third fight, this time on Spike TV, and Tito won in just over 2 minutes.
Tito Ortiz got his chance at a rematch with Chuck Liddell where he did a little better than the first time but again got knocked out. The significance of the fight is more so the fact that it became the UFC’s first ever 1-Million buy event in their Pay-Per-View history. It was a new era for the UFC and the signature end to the once face of the company.
It’s important to know that Tito Ortiz stuck around when it wasn’t the thing all the kids were doing. When other fighters like Ken Shamrock went to the WWF (Currently WWE) he stuck around for the UFC. He was the fighter who shows like “The Best Damn Sport Show Period” wanted on their network when and if the UFC was something they were going to talk about. When the UFC was purchased by Zuffa it wasn’t even allowed on Pay-Per-View. As Dana White would say, “even porn was allowed on Pay-Per-View “.
I’ll remember Tito Ortiz mostly for the build-up to his first fight with Ken Shamrock. His way with words and attitude was like a magnet to my eyes on the television screen. This wasn’t exactly what the Gracie’s had in mind when they created the UFC back in 1993, but I liked it. The face of the UFC wasn’t about honor and respecting his opponents, he had a little bit of the spice that MMA’s prize fighting cousin Boxing has.
The climax of Tito Ortiz came at UFC 40 where he faced off against “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock. The fight was on November 22nd, 2002 and I can remember it like it was yesterday. Ken Shamrock was tired of Tito’s antics in the Octagon and tired of the way he was disrespecting his opponents after defeating them.
I remember wanting Ken Shamrock to win because the good guy had to win. Then I again learned the hard lesson that good guys don’t always win. Tito Ortiz had the best performance of his career that night. He beat Ken Shamrock in just about every facet of the MMA game whether it be striking or on the ground. Ken Shamrock showed a lot of heart and actually managed some impressive escapes from the ground but he lost just about every second of every round. Although, there was that big punch he landed in the first round that put Tito Ortiz down to one knee. That was Tito’s last big victory and it happened at a time when the tide was turning for the UFC.
Tito Ortiz has had one victory since defeating Ken Shamrock in their third fight back in 2006. He defeated Ryan Bader in a huge upset by submission and shocked everyone, including UFC president Dana White. This Saturday he’s having his retirement fight against Forrest Griffin at UFC 148. Both guys have a victory over each other so it’s fitting that Tito Ortiz’s last match is a rubber match to end a trilogy. Not that I have anything against Forrest Griffin, but I want to see Ortiz’s swan song end in a victory.