When Tito Ortiz steps into the Octagon at UFC 148 to face Forrest Griffin for the third time, it will be the last time we see Tito fight.
We know this because Tito announced it as his retirement fight some months ago.
For 15 years, Tito has been a UFC fixture. With the exception of 1998, he has fought for the UFC at least once every year since 1997. He’s been as much a part of the UFC landscape as the Octagon itself. Even during those spells when he wasn’t fighting, he was talking and keeping his name in peoples’ minds.
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Tito’s importance to the sport, especially during the Dark Ages. He deserves to be in the UFC Hall of Fame as much as anyone, and will be inducted at the UFC Fan Expo on fight day.
But why would he announce his retirement so long before the fight?
There are several reasons, both pros and cons. Here is the good, the bad, and the reality.
By announcing his retirement, Tito is trying to sell the heck out of this fight. He’s a smart businessman, and has managed to keep himself relevant in MMA discourse years beyond his in-cage significance.
Think about it, what other fighter can post a record of 1-6-1 over the past five years and remain a part of the scene? That requires a special kind of talent.
Tito knows that people will tune in if they know it’s his last fight. There’s a nostalgic element involved for long time fans when one of the pioneers hangs up the gloves. Sure, Silva vs. Sonnen II sells itself, but every little promotional push helps reach the pay per view Promised Land—one million buys.
Tito would love to go out on a monster card.
Announcing retirement beforehand may be good for sales, but it pretty much renders a fight completely meaningless.
The Tito/Forrest trilogy isn’t exactly the most captivating rivalry as it is. If Tito wins, oh well, Forrest isn’t really into this MMA thing anymore. If he loses, oh well, he’s retiring anyway.
The fight has no divisional worth whatsoever. And by announcing the retirement, it prematurely negates a Forrest victory because hey, he’s fighting a retiree, he was supposed to win.
The pro in this situation is the potential for increased sales. The con is an irrelevant fight. The reality is that increased sales trump an irrelevant fight eight days a week.
However, there are additional factors with the most significant being the ceremonial induction of an MMA legend into the UFC Hall of Fame a few hours before one of the biggest rematches in UFC history.
That is going to create an eventful mood that will make the entire experience that much more exciting.
Also, Tito is a legend, and he deserves a little latitude for promotion, recognition, heck even self-aggrandizement.
UFC 148 was going to be a huge event no matter what. Having Tito Ortiz’s retirement fight and Hall of Fame induction as a part of it will make it a historic one too.