Tito Ortiz: Reflecting on the Legacy of a 'Huntington Beach Bad Boy' That Ruled the UFC
There was a time when the ground and pound ruled the Octagon and a kid from Huntington Beach, California was the most feared fighter on the planet.
He didn't have the meanest of looks, the criminal wrap-sheet of a bar room brawler, and he wasn't extremely well versed in the jiu-jitsu ground game, yet he could still be considered one of the pioneers of the sport.
What separated this 22-year-old kid from predecessors Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, Don Frye, Ken Shamrock, and Tank Abbott was marketability. Tito Ortiz sold himself. "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" as he was called was a walking billboard for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
With a nearly shaved head, the stubble bleached blonde, a fighter's physique and a "punk" type of attitude, Ortiz took the organization by storm.
The son of a Mexican father and American born mother, Ortiz grew up proud of his mixed heritage often carrying the colors of both nations with him to the Octagon before a fight.
His given birth name Jacob Christopher Ortiz likely would not have produced the same street credit he has earned today. "Tito," meaning tyrant was given to him by his father when Ortiz was just a year old.
He would earn a strong wrestling pedigree, placing fourth in high school state championships as a senior and then winning two California state junior college championships.
In 2000, Ortiz would enter the Abu Dhabi submission wrestling tournament taking third place after losing in the semi-finals. In that tournament Ortiz would defeat a future hall of famer named Matt Hughes.
While still in college Ortiz would fight his first professional mixed martial arts fight. The invitation came from a little organization known as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, maybe you have heard of them.
Ortiz defeated Wes Albritton in just 31-seconds of the first round. That same night Ortiz would also taste defeat as he was submitted via guillotine choke in the first round by Guy Mezger.
After the loss Ortiz would fight his only professional fight outside of the UFC, earning a victory and an invite back to the big time.
Ortiz would face a fighter named Jerry Bohlander out of a fight club known as "The Lion's Den." The Den was headed by future hall-of-famer, Ken Shamrock. Enter the birth of the legendary career of Tito Ortiz.
Ortiz defeated Bohlander and would then earn a chance to extract revenge upon Mezger who defeated him two years prior.
Ortiz defeated Mezger via a technical knockout from punches but it was his post fight antics that shined through on that night.
He flipped off the fighters of the Lion's Den in the corner of Mezger and donning a t-shirt after the fight that read "Guy Mezger is My Bitch." This infuriated Shamrock and would begin one of the sport's most heated rivalries.
Before Ortiz and Shamrock would have a chance to settle their differences "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" would earn a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title against another Shamrock. Ken's half-brother Frank would defeat Ortiz in the fourth round of their title bout at UFC 22 in what was later awarded "Fight of the Year."
After Shamrock vacated the title and left the UFC, Ortiz would earn redemption, defeating Wanderlei Silva to claim the crown in the 205-pound division. Ortiz claimed the world title on April 14, 2000 after defeating Wanderlei Silva and would defend the title four more times before eventually get to fight the founder of the Lion's Den, Ken Shamrock at UFC 40 on Nov. 22, 2002.
Ortiz mauled Shamrock for three rounds before the fight was stopped. The trash talk that leading up to the fight made for one of the most anticipated fights in the organization's pre-mainstream existence.
After defeating Shamrock, Ortiz's career would eventually hit some bumps in the road. He relinquished his title to now fellow hall-of-famer, Randy Couture on Sep. 26, 2003.
After losing the title to Couture, Ortiz would then face fellow training partner and friend Chuck Liddell. There was a lot of skepticism that Ortiz was ducking the fight for a long time but the two finally locked horns with Liddell winning via TKO in the second round.
The bad boy then righted the ship pulling off a string of five consecutive victories. He was set to face Guy Mezger in a rubber match (third fight) but Mezger suffered a mild stroke and was replaced by Patrick Cote whom Ortiz defeated via decision. Ortiz then followed this up with wins over Vitor Belfort, Forrest Griffin and two more against Ken Shamrock.
His second bout with Ken Shamrock became the fight that would begin Ortiz's reign as the king of pay-per-view buys. Ortiz and Shamrock headlined UFC 61: Bitter Rivals raking in more than 775,000 pay-per-view buys, the most in the organization's history at that time.
The fight was ruled in favor of Ortiz but there was question as to whether the stoppage from the referee came too early. Controversy surrounding the ruling led UFC matchmakers to let the two fight for a third time, only this time it was free on Spike Television, but the outcome was still the same. Ortiz' hand was raised as the winner, setting up a chance for him to claim his UFC light heavyweight title back.
The man in front of him however was Liddell who had already defeated him once before. The two would exchange words for months leading up to one of the biggest fights in the organization's history.
On Dec. 30, 2006 Ortiz-Liddell II would pull in more than one million pay-per-view buys, the first time the organization pulled in seven figures. To date it is the third highest buy in the sport's history. The only two UFC fight cards that earned more were headlined by a huge draw by the name of Brock Lesnar.
After losing to Liddell, Ortiz became plagued by injury. He had multiple back surgeries often sidelining him from competition. Ortiz credits these injuries with the reason he does not have the belt today.
He would fight to a draw with Rashad Evans, followed by three more consecutive losses to Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin, and Matt Hamill.
In between contract disputes with the UFC, legal battles, and living the celebrity lifestyle while married to former adult film star Jenna Jameson, Ortiz still managed to stay in the limelight.
He and UFC President Dana White would exchange verbal attacks on one another leading up to what was supposed to be a boxing fight between the two. Although the fight never happened it did generate enough interest to keep him relevant while not adding any wins to his credit.
He also launched his clothing line Punishment Athletics into one of the biggest mixed martial arts apparel lines on the market.
Ortiz was invited back to the UFC to serve as a coach on the Ultimate Fighter alongside Liddell. The two were to meet for a third time before again Ortiz suffered another injury, sidelining him and canceling the fight.
In a do-or-die fight Ortiz fought up and comer, Ryan Bader. If Ortiz lost the fight it was likely that the organization would serve him his walking papers. Instead, Ortiz did the unthinkable and knocked Bader out in the first round proving there was still some fight in the old dog.
But the thrill of victory did not last long. A month later Ortiz re-matched Evans losing via TKO, and then another loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira a few months later.
Next month Ortiz will fight his final fight in the UFC and possibly in the sport. It was announced that at UFC 148 Ortiz and Griffin will fight for a third time. Each holds a victory over one another and Ortiz is aiming to go out on top.
Win or lose, Ortiz will indeed go out on top. At the UFC 148 Fan Expo Ortiz will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fme. Ortiz will be the ninth inductee into hall, the eight fighter to make the list. Charles "Mask" Lewis, one of the founders of the famed Tapout organization is the only name on the list to have never fought inside the UFC octagon.
Ortiz will join the likes of Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Royce Gracie, Randy Couture, and Mark Coleman.
At a press conference for the upcoming UFC 150 event UFC President Dana White said this about Ortiz.
"He pound for pound was doing some of the most damage at a time when we (the UFC organization) were hurting. "But it's part of our history the way the storylines played out between me, Chuck (Liddell) and Tito. He's definitely a part of the history of the sport."
Ortiz has fought 26 times for the UFC organization, more than any fighter in the history of the company. His upcoming rubber-match fight with Griffin will be the Bad Boy's 27th appearance in the octagon.
He also holds the record for most title defenses within the light heavyweight division, at five. With a professional record of 27-10-1, Ortiz truly is one of the worlds best. Grown men, such as myself have watched him fight since our teen years and have witnessed a legendary career go from cradle to grave and then some.
Win or lose Tito Ortiz is "the people's champion".