Tito Ortiz was the light heavyweight champion of the UFC and defended his title five times. An impressive and laudable accomplishment; it remains the record for the division. To the early generation of UFC fans, he is a legend and was one of the leading stars in MMA.
Tito Ortiz is scheduled to fight at UFC 148 on July 7th, 2012 in his final UFC bout. This is a good thing. He was loved for his talent and fighting style, never for trying too hard to get the spotlight.Tito has epitomized classlessness and the exact type of behaviour that the sport is trying to elude. His retirement fight in July against Forrest Griffin will benefit the sport. It will be a testament to skill and hard work triumphing over cheap publicity tricks and selfish searches for easy fame. A career that saw wins over Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort is tainted by a needless drive to be recognized for tawdry stunts.
Nobody likes a bad winner. And nobody wins worse than Tito Ortiz.
His rehearsed enactment of digging a grave and burying his opponent after winning a fight is not for the delight of the fans.
The fans appreciate and respect all of the great athletes who enter the cage. No one makes the UFC without proving themselves to be committed to the sport and having paid heavy dues in sparring, training sessions, cardio workouts and numerous sacrifices.
Half of the combatants in every contest lose (and in cases of a draw neither competitor wins), so there is no dishonor in not being victorious.
To disrespect your opponent like that is unforgivable. It is worsened by the fact that it is not something said nor done in the heat of the moment, but is a planned, premeditated act.
When you lose in a sport, how do you feel? Do you need that feeling exacerbated by such a slap in the face? To do so to a fellow professional proves a lack of basic comprehension of class.
This sport does not need that. That is for professional wrestling.
In his bout with Ryan Bader, Tito applied a deep guillotine choke that Bader tapped out to.
Tito recognized the tap and held the choke on.
The referee tried to pry his hands off the throat of Bader. Tito held on.
Eventually, the choke was released and Bader was okay. This is every fighter's worst nightmare—competing against some loser who tries to hurt you in a sporting event after you yield.
This is a violation of the most sanctimonious of all codes. Respect the tap. Eventually, the odds dictate that a horrible mishap will fall upon the sport.
One of the most probable methods will be a referee missing a tap, and a prolonged choke will lamentably produce irreversible damage. This is a grave concern every fan, fighter and promoter is horrifically aware of.
Hopefully it never comes, but if it were to occur, let's hope that it is accidental and not because of one person's single-minded pursuit for personal fame. Compare that with Brian Stann's refusal to continue punching an unconscious Sakara.
Tito likes to use cheap tricks to gain popularity and to place himself in the spotlight.
One disgusting method was his T-shirt gag. Again, this is more akin to pro wrestling than a legitimate sport.
At the time, Tito was in the upper echelon of the sport's elite fighters. It is a sport. Why do something so infantile?
Also, the use of the "B" word as an insult has become banal through overuse in pop culture. It is neither original nor particularly demeaning. For me, this has no place in sports and detracts from the appreciation of their athletic and intellectual abilities.
Here are some of his T-shirt slogans worn in pre-fight events and inside the Octagon:
- Jerry Bohlander: "I Just F&%ked Your Ass"
- Guy Mezger: "Gay Mezger Is My B&^ch"
- Dana White: "Dana is My B*^ch."
Tito never lost a fight he didn't have an excuse for.
A litany of excuses follow every Ortiz loss.
His back is a common one. Blaming the judges is another.
He is a great competitor. Tito is talented and comes to fight. There is no shame in his losses.
Although, he fared much better in an earlier era, when MMA was an obscure sport with a far more limited number of participants. Being both a bad winner and loser is overly nauseating.
This is how Tito recently described himself:
"There's a few people that don't give me the respect that I deserve, but there are a lot of fans that give me a lot of respect, you know? Of course the people that follow me on Twitter, and you just hear the way they talk about me. I'm a legend, I'm an icon of the sport. You know, boxing had Muhammad Ali, professional wrestling had Hulk Hogan and mixed martial arts has Tito Ortiz."
Tito always makes bold predictions and assures victory. Yet his record says otherwise.
Tito is constantly talking about how great he is, but since October of 2006, he has one win—the caveat is that was over a shot Ken Shamrock.
This guy is the antithesis of the "People's Champion."
He is not representing any decent, respectful people.
I usually hear people booing him, and I know most contemporary fans have no love for him.
Usually the people that cheer for him are those wishing to brandish their history as fans of the sport, feeling superior to the lowly neophytes who didn't witness Tito's early reign of dominance from 1997-2002.
A "People's Champion" is traditionally one universally loved by the fans for their character, valour and charisma. Clay Guida would be an example. Randy Couture another. Or Brian Stann.
Tito's early stellar performances served to boost interest in the fledgling sport of MMA.
He was one of the first-ever legit faces of the UFC.
Ground-and-pound, submissions, wrestling and striking were all in his arsenal. He delivered inside the Octagon for his many loving fans.
However, his self-promotion campaign stained the purity of combat and the people's love for sportsmanship and honour. We should all wish Tito well and be thankful his peers were able to usurp him from the throne.
Classiness exudes from Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Anderson Silva, which the Tito era never provided. This allowed mainstream media and the average sports enthusiasts the opportunity to back the greatest sport on Earth.