We hardly knew ye.
Well, we actually did. The former light heavyweight champion filled many roles during his 15-year career in the Octagon. Now, he is gone.
Tito Ortiz helped build the UFC. He deserves credit for that.
From 2000 to 2006, Ortiz was one of the best in the sport. No question. He fought the best and beat almost all of them. He was one of the biggest draws in the UFC and was bar none the biggest-money fighter from 2001 to 2004 and remains one of the best light heavyweights in MMA history.
His rivalry with Ken Shamrock is one of the most important in the promotion's history, with UFC 61 drawing 775,000 buys all the way back in 2006 and the “Ortiz vs. Shamrock” Fight Night event on Spike TV would end up peaking at 5.7 million viewers. Those numbers are amazing by today's standards, never even mind back then.
That, though, was six years ago. The six years since?
There is not a fan around that does not know the trouble Tito Ortiz has had in the cage. After beating Ken Shamrock in the aforementioned Fight Night event, he tallied a 1-7-1 record. His one win, against Ryan Bader, is widely regarded by most fans as one of the biggest flukes in recent MMA.
The many, many fans who started watching the UFC after the Pride FC acquisition would never see Ortiz win back-to-back fights. Many openly wondered why he was kept by the UFC for so long.
It did not help that so many of Ortiz's losses were followed by talk of injuries. Granted, he repeatedly had back and neck trouble towards the twilight of his career. However, fans simply interpreted that as making excuses. Fans hate when people make excuses after they lose.
When he was not fighting in the cage, controversy always seemed to follow him. He had the very ugly contract dispute with the UFC in 2007 and 2008 where he specifically goaded UFC President Dana White.
There was the issue where he posted a naked picture of himself on Twitter (he claimed his phone was hacked, which most were skeptical of). He had the domestic violence case with his wife, former porn star Jenna Jameson. He had the controversy from his coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter season 11 where many suggested he agreed to fight rival coach, Chuck Liddell while knowing he needed neck surgery. Not to mention the various appearances in tabloids for car accidents and silly Twitter wars against other fighters like Forrest Griffin and Matt Mitrione.
For six years, Tito Ortiz was always in the news and never for anything good. This retirement fight was pretty much the first time where the UFC really pushed Ortiz for his accomplishments, rather than showing him as a stepping stone for younger opponents. Worse yet, it has been years since he fought an established opponent like Griffin.
Now he is gone and UFC fans do not really know how to feel about it, or how to feel about Ortiz. Ultimately, though, most current MMA fans simply did not know that Zuffa did not have a UFC event hit 75,000 buys without Ortiz for years. They did not know he owns one of the longest title reigns in the promotion's history.
They just know him for his recent struggles and because of that, the majority of fans are probably not going to be shedding tears about his departure (even if they should).