Make room for one more, because Tito Ortiz is coming to join the party.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White declared a few months ago that Ortiz would definitely be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame sometime down the road, despite the personal issues that he has had with "The People's Champ" in the past.
Now, White has confirmed that Ortiz will indeed join the likes of Randy Couture, Dan Severn and Chuck Liddell among others, in the prestigious club of mixed martial arts (MMA) legends and pioneers who have had a major impact in the sport's short history.
Ortiz will be inducted at the UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, prior to his trilogy bout with Forrest Griffin at UFC 148 on July 7, 2012, which will be the final time that "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" steps into the Octagon as he has stated that this indeed will be his final fight.
See what White had to say about the decision to include Ortiz in The Hall of Fame (via MMA Weekly) after the jump:
"He pound for pound was doing some of the most damage at a time when we were hurting. But it's part of our history the way the storylines played out between me, Chuck and Tito. He's definitely a part of the history of the sport."
It is not secret that Ortiz and the UFC's head honcho have had a tumultuous love-hate relationship in the past; however, White says those days are long gone:
"Yeah (we're good). I have no beef with Tito."
Ortiz was one of the earliest pioneers of the sport, becoming one of the early stars in MMA and for the UFC during "the dark days" of the sport. He began his career with the promotion way back at UFC 13 on May 30, 1997, and proceeded to win the vacant Light Heavyweight title in 2000 by defeating Wanderlei Silva in Tokyo, Japan.
Ortiz would go one to defend his title a record-setting five times, one that still stands today, before losing it to Randy Couture at UFC 44.
Throughout his 15-year career with the promotion, Ortiz fought and defeated Ken Shamrock, Vitor Belfort, Forrest Griffin and had memorable bouts with Chuck Liddell and the aforementioned Couture. Since 2006, however, Ortiz has gone a 1-6-1, signaling that indeed his best days were behind him.
Regardless of his recent run, Ortiz remains one of the true pioneers and ambassadors of the sport and deserves the recognition and his place amongst the rest of the greats in the Hall of Fame.