Go ahead and smile, Tito. You have earned it.
I will be the first person to admit this: I strongly, strongly disliked Tito Ortiz before hearing him talk going into his retirement bout against Forrest Griffin.
Ortiz used to bug me more than any fighter in the promotion, but that all changed before UFC 148.
"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" was, for the first time, humbled and respectful when discussing his final matchup.
I could sense his passion and his level of caring for the sport and for this final fight, and I appreciated it. I appreciated him.
Unfortunately, that passion was his downfall in the bout, and it ultimately cost him a victory in his final UFC performance.
All signs showed that Ortiz was prepared and in shape for this bout. He was focused and ready, and Forrest Griffin was set to be on the wrong side of a vintage Tito Ortiz beatdown.
For the first round, this was indeed the case.
Ortiz took Griffin down easily, landed some nice ground and pound and downright controlled the fight in the opening frame.
A fight is more than just one round though, and Ortiz had nothing left in the gas tank after that throwback first round.
Griffin proceeded to pick his shots, landing almost three times more strikes than Ortiz for the next 10 minutes. While none of them did any significant damage, it was enough to win him the fight on the judges' scorecards.
So what went wrong for Tito?
The answer is simple: he gassed. Since he is prone to making excuses after a loss, I am a little surprised he didn't have something to say when Forrest inexplicably conducted his post-fight interview.
Ortiz flat out suffered an adrenaline dump after the first round, and he had nothing left to give after the opening five minutes of the fight.
The fact that he was able to drop Griffin twice while fatigued is impressive, and it serves to show that, had he not gassed early, he very likely would have finished the fight and ended his career on a high note.
Such was not the case though, and he instead played the part of human punching bag for Griffin's pitter-patter punches for the bout's final two frames.
Tito's passion and love for the sport made him one of the most feared and dominant light heavyweights of all time. He was the most polarizing figure during the UFC's early years, and he helped build the greatest MMA promotion in the world.
This passion may have cost him his fight against Forrest Griffin, but he will always be respected and admired for that desire to win and put on a show.
I, for one, was happy to see him care. I was happy to see that fire even when he knew it was the end of the road.
Tito made me a fan, and his legacy will forever live on.
He dropped his last bout because of fatigue but will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most energized and feared light heavyweights of all time.
That is a pretty good trade-off, wouldn't you say?