A leopard can’t change his spots.
That’s likely the first thing I’ll tell anyone in 15 years who asks me about Tito Ortiz. Sure, he’s calling himself "The People’s Champion" these days, but he’s "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" to anyone who’s watched him for more than two fights, and that’s what he’ll be best known for.
In an era when his sport was essentially in the dark and needed a guy to sell tickets, it was Ortiz who did.
When the sport was evolving and no one knew whether striking or grappling was best, it was Ortiz who melded the two together to build on Mark Coleman’s invention of ground-and-pound.
At a time MMA needed a heel, a guy people loved to hate, Ortiz was there to flip them off and them beat them up afterwards
That’s how Ortiz will be remembered.
Ortiz has become an interesting figure in modern MMA. Gone are the days of a young fighter fuelled by his own brash machismo, now replaced by an aging veteran who remains competitive if often unsuccessful. He gets the business side of things, has repaired a ruined relationship with his employers and seems to genuinely love his fans.
Those are all aspects of his personality that will be remembered too.
It’s probably fair to say that Ortiz has been shaky in the last few years. He’s never had a "gimme" fight in his career though, and he always comes to fight.
If you’re like me, you probably get tired of him reminding you of that fact every time he’s in the cage, but he’s not wrong. Even still, 1-6-1 is nothing to write home about.
Truly, that won’t be what people remember about Ortiz. It’s remarkable to think that a fighter could finish his career on such a slide—at best he’ll win two of his final nine fights should he get a retirement bout and actually win it—and be recalled for the greatness that came before it.
But that’s what Ortiz has earned. At a time when MMA was a niche sport at best, he transcended it and was a face that people knew in sports, not just in his sport. That’s pretty remarkable, and hopefully he can appreciate it when his time comes.
His fans certainly will.