We get it: Tito Ortiz is retired. Inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame prior to his exit bout against Forrest Griffin last night (Sat., July 7, 2012) at UFC 148: "Silva vs. Sonnen 2" at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ortiz walks off into the sunset with a memorable career behind him.
With 1-7-1 record during an ugly slide over the last five and a half years, Ortiz' billing on cards far outweighed what his performances merited. With drawing power more than most fighters will ever know, he consistently landed high-end spots on under cards, and even main events, that took up slots an otherwise relevant fighter would've had.
Ortiz used to be that guy, but in recent years, he was not.
Sometimes, it fulfilled a lingering plot line the UFC could ostensibly muster up as once-again viable, such as Ortiz's rematch blowout loss as the main event at UFC 133 against Rashad Evans. There were also stretches in credulity we were spared seeing play out, such as his aborted third match at UFC 115 against Chuck Liddell after the duo served as coaches on "The Ultimate Fighter."
It's hard to sell a third match when one guy has dominated the first two, but ironically enough, Ortiz himself was the beneficiary of this kind of promotional mentality in brutalizing Ken Shamrock thrice, which was two more times than it was really needed.
After Ortiz' submission upset of Ryan Bader a year ago, the first thing I thought was "This just bought him a few more setbacks before he's done here." Which is precisely what it did, as Ortiz was lost his next three, including two brutal knockout losses, prior to looking tired, aged, and spent against Griffin, who didn't look anything like his old self, either.
In fact, on a very weak card outside of the main event, Ortiz vs. Griffin was a laughable stand-in for a co-main event. The second bout on the card should have A) relevance to the division and/or B) at least one top-10 fighter competing. This had neither. And the duo looked like they were fighting underwater.
Hey, I'm all for a match-up of marginal pugs. But when neither of them is remotely close to having the gas tank to give a single round of action without obvious signs of fatigue and technical deterioration, it starts to feel like a ripoff.
You can't blame Ortiz for wanting to compete. But the UFC has stretched all limits of credibility in creating a kind of parallel standard for him. As an aging star, a product like Ortiz is difficult to cast off, lest a rival promotion sign him, thereby forcing the UFC to use him as a steppingstone-style opponent, or foist him into meaningless nostalgia-style matches, which is a noticeable trend of late.
The UFC has often prided itself on not doing what boxing did to go from being a dominant sport to a laughable sideshow with only-occasional bursts of drama and intuitive competency. Stuff like Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva part two smacks of the nostalgia approach as well, even if it was short-notice.
The next time the UFC inducts a guy into the Hall of Fame, let's hope it isn't one that's won one out of his last nine fights, to say nothing of occupying more co-main and main-event slots during that stretch than were deserved. It's not good for the fans or the sport.
Jason Probst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jasonprobst.