By Raphael Garcia
Time often erodes the legacy that a famous athlete builds during his or her career. Michael Jordan’s career ended more than 20 years ago and fans now question whether he was the greatest of all time. The debate around who is the greatest NFL QB has evolved well beyond Steve Young and Joe Montana thanks to so much time passing since they were on the field. The same will be true for Tito Ortiz, who ended his career with a win at Bellator 170. Going forward, how will the sport remember the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy?”
Tito Ortiz is an interesting figure within the mixed martial arts space. Nearly 20 years have passed since his professional debut against Wes Albritton at UFC 13. After a “passing of the torch” from Frank Shamrock at UFC 22 back in 1999, Ortiz would become one of the biggest stars in the sport. His early rivalries with Chuck Liddell and Ken Shamrock created the foundation for the UFC’s journey into the mainstream status it enjoys today. Perhaps even more so was his love-hate relationship with UFC President Dana White, as both men never shied away from taking shots at each other.
But Ortiz’s legacy is much more than wins and losses. After his second loss to Liddell at UFC 66, Ortiz became something of a shell of himself. He put together a 4-7-1 record during that time, often citing some inexplicable injury during the post-fight interview. He slowly devolved into a continuing joke within the MMA sector, never returning to title contender status. Excitement erupted when he defeated Ryan Bader at UFC 132; even though he couldn’t keep any momentum, fans were ready to see what was next for Ortiz. That “next” wasn’t much to speak of, except the Bellator 120 upset win over Alexander Shlemenko, but Ortiz always remained a fighter that fans would tune into see. His appearances for Bellator consistently delivered high ratings, and the same is expected from his last bout against Chael Sonnen.
Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey. Even though he may not leave the sport with the same level of respect that he once had, it’s still important to recognize the contributions he’s given mixed martial arts. Hopefully, he will truly stay retired this time and leave on a successful note.