Tito Ortiz is one of the best light heavyweight’s in the history of MMA, alongside a crop of fighters including nemesis Chuck Liddell, Frank Shamrock, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. Not only is Ortiz a successful entrepreneur with an equipment/clothing line, managing company and gym under his belt, he helped build the UFC into the juggernaut it is today. When Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn were lending their services to Vince McMahon’s WWE, Ortiz became the poster boy for the UFC. His brash, cocky attitude made him a household name, not to mention running through opponents such as Wanderlei Silva, Yuki Kondo and Evan Tanner en route to six title defenses. His trilogy with Ken Shamrock was a made-for-television rivalry that attracted waves of new fans and will always be remembered as the bitterest feud in UFC history. Ortiz also had memorable feuds with Chuck Liddell, who blasted Ortiz twice by way of knockout, and Randy “The Natural” Couture, who also had his way with the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy”.
A depressing statistic is that Ortiz has only won one fight since 2006 – the unforgettable submission win against The Ultimate Fighter 8 winner Ryan Bader, with his back against the wall facing a possible exile from the UFC if he was not victorious. Ortiz’s win was an upset for the ages but he dropped three consecutive fights afterwards and was stopped by strikes in two of them. Ortiz recently tweeted the UFC and Viacom, parent company of Bellator, that he is considering a comeback and has the desire to fight once again.
“Everyone has a comeback”, Ortiz expressed in a text message to MMAFighting. As a free agent, Ortiz is weighing out his options and was rumored to be in talks with Bellator. After recently securing the services of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Randy Couture, Bellator is becoming what they were trying to avoid – a retirement home for former UFC fighters.
Maybe this is a result of sheer boredom or maybe Ortiz truly believes he can do well against the current crop of light heavyweights the world has to offer. However what does Ortiz gain from this? Aside from a potential superfight with another journeyman or young gunner, Ortiz would not be fit to fight for a title – at least not on Dana White’s court. The outspoken UFC president, who has had his fair share of run-ins with the former champion, simply will not allow him to. After multiple surgeries on his neck and back the thirty-eight year old does not have time or health on his side.
Ortiz could sign for upstart promotion World Series of Fighting but their lack of quality opponents would make this particular case pointless. He could test the waters in smaller promotions like Legacy Fighting Championship or Titan Fighting Championship but would Ortiz, a UFC Hall of Famer be willing to move to places like those? Of course not - his head is too big (no pun intended). He could keep managing fighters like Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, holding press conferences and lending his talent to the broadcast team but let’s face it - the output would be too comical for us to take him seriously.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Ortiz signs for Bellator - but would he have to compete in their tournament? If he wants a title shot, he would presumably have to. Sure, Ortiz could matchup well against Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in a superfight. Although wouldn’t this label Ortiz as a journeyman or a fighter past his prime who cannot walk away from the sport, similar to past Bellator fighters such as Rich Clementi or Renato “Babalu” Sobral?
If Ortiz needs any more convincing, his foe Ken Shamrock should remind him that sometimes fighting for dinky promotions well after your career is over becomes pointless fast. Another man at the pinnacle of the sport when Ortiz was enjoying a successful run was Jens Pulver; another former champion who has had some heartbreaking outings because walking away is not in his nature.
This raises another question altogether, if the fastest growing sport in the world is too fresh for us to really see the consequences a fighter faces when he retires (apart from health damages). One thing is for sure: almost everyone gets the itch for one more fight. Liddell probably still has it, both Shamrocks couldn’t say goodbye properly (one still can’t) and who knows how many times Couture and BJ Penn have flirted with retirement. Ortiz finds himself in the same boat and when a fighter has only won once in his past nine fights dating back to 2006, it doesn’t matter if you’re an expert, pundit or a fan - nobody wants to see him take any more punishment.