With Only 15 Minutes Left, A Look Back At The 15 Year Career Of Tito Ortiz – Part 1Tito Ortiz. The name sparks a plethora of emotions and memories of one the most memorable fighters in MMA history. His dominant run as the UFC light heavyweight champion. His legendary feuds with Chuck Liddell, Ken Shamrock, and Dana White. The bad boy persona, complete with controversial t-shirts and over the top post fight victory celebrations. MMA pioneer. UFC Hall of Famer. Legend. However you want to remember "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy", one thing is for sure. He is one of the reasons that I am writing this article, and one of the reasons that fans pay their hard earned money to buy a UFC ticket or get together with their friends each month to watch on pay-per-view. Simply put, Tito Ortiz is one of the most important figures in the history of this great sport. On Saturday, July 7th, 2012, Ortiz will compete for the final time in his storied career. Here is a look back at the triumphs and tribulations of Tito Ortiz.
"He doesn't really like the guys that are smart mouths, or think they are really big hotshots, and I wasn't really like that." - Tito Ortiz, UFC 13, May 30th 1997
Those are the words of a 22 year old Tito Ortiz, spoken in his prefight interview played during his walk to the cage for his first ever UFC bout. The "he" referred to is David "Tank" Abbott, whom Ortiz trained with at the time. The real takeaway point of the interview is Ortiz claiming that he wasn't a smart mouth or a hotshot. Maybe he wasn't just yet. Or maybe he was hiding something. Either way, things were about to change.
On that night Ortiz blew through an overmatched Wes Albritton, taking him down and smashing him with ground and pound. Later that night he fought as an alternate against MMA veteran Guy Mezgar, who had already fought the likes of Bas Rutten, Yuki Kondo, and Semmy Schilt in Japan's Pancrase organization. Mezger was 12-5-2, and Ortiz was 1-0, with the win coming only hours before. Nonetheless, Ortiz got on top of Mezger and started raining down knees to the head, and it seemed pretty obvious that Mezger tapped out. Referee John McCarthy missed the tap, and stood the fight up to allow Mezger to clear blood from his head. Upon the restart, Ortiz, showing inexperience was choked out after a sloppy takedown attempt.
Despite the loss, Ortiz showed that he had what it took to hang with the current crop of elite level fighters, even at such a young age with basically no experience.
After a quick TKO win on the regional circuit (his only non UFC bout of his 27 fight career), Ortiz returned to the octagon in 1999 and defeated 9-2 Jerry Bohlander from the legendary Lion's Den camp. He then fought Guy Mezger in a rematch at UFC 19, defeating him via TKO. People forget that in 1999 Bohlander and Mezger were two highly ranked fighters, so for anyone to defeat them, it was an accomplishment. It was after the second Mezger fight where the Ortiz-Shamrock rivalry started, as Ortiz flashed the double birds at the Lion's Den corner, which resulted in an infuriated Ken Shamrock yelling at Ortiz from the top of the cage. No one knew it at the time, but this was the spark that started the fire which arguably saved the UFC from going bankrupt.
At UFC 22 in September 1999, Tito Ortiz got his shot at the UFC light heavyweight title in only his sixth pro fight. The reigning champion, Frank Shamrock, was 18-7-2, and had already defended his title three times. Already an established champion in Pancrase and the UFC, Shamrock was heavily favored. However Ortiz controlled the first three rounds with a superior wrestling game, taking down the more experienced Shamrock and dominating with ground and pound. Shamrock was savvy though, and it was apparent going into the fourth round that Ortiz was running out of steam. With only 10 seconds left in the fourth round, an exhausted Ortiz tapped to strikes. It was the defining victory in the legendary career of Frank Shamrock, and great learning experience for Ortiz.
When Frank Shamrock "retired", the UFC title was left vacated. So at UFC 25, the UFC pitted Ortiz against 11-2 Wanderlei Silva to determine the new champion. Ortiz again used superior wrestling to take a unanimous decision over Silva. At age 25, Tito Ortiz was the UFC light heavyweight champion.
Over the next three years, Ortiz dominated all comers as champion. In his first defense he choked out 29-8-3 Pancrase veteran Yuki Kondo in the first round. At the time Kondo was recognized as the best light heavyweight in the world. He then brutally knocked out the number eight ranked light heavyweight, 23-2 Evan Tanner with a slam that knocked Tanner unconscious on impact. The Tanner win was significant because it came at UFC 30, which was the first UFC event under new ownership. Zuffa, headed by casino owners Frank and Lorenzo Ferttita and managed by Dana White, had just purchased the UFC, and Tito Ortiz was going to be their poster boy.
At UFC 32, Ortiz defended his title again by smashing an overmatched and frankly undeserving Elvis Sinosic in the first round. In his next bout, Ortiz was again in the midst of history, as he defended his title in the main event of the first ever sanctioned MMA event in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although the event (and the fight) was a flop, Ortiz defended his title by defeating number eight ranked light heavyweight, 10-1 Vladimir Matyushenko by decision. Ortiz was originally set to face Vitor Belfort, but Belfort had to withdraw due to injury.
"I remember standing there before the Ortiz/Shamrock fight and looking around. The energy of that fight, it was phenomenal, and it was the first time I honestly said, it's going to make it." - Big John McCarthy
The quote is from famed referee "Big" John McCarthy, an MMA staple since UFC 2. Speaking to Tapout Radio, McCarthy described the moment when he knew the UFC wasn't going anywhere. And he wasn't alone. Going into UFC 40, the UFC was losing a lot of money. Had the show flopped, who knows what would have happened to the UFC, and subsequently the sport of MMA.
The main event saw champion Tito Ortiz taking on bitter rival and legend of the sport Ken Shamrock. The trash talk between the two gave the fight mainstream attention, and as a result it was a hit. The fight drew almost four times as many PPV buys as any other UFC PPV under Zuffa, showing that the company could be financially successful. While a spectacle, the fight was not competitive. Ortiz smashed Shamrock from the opening bell, eventually causing a corner stoppage after the third round. The result of the fight had less significance as the fights impact on the sport. The UFC had just held its most successful event to date, and Ortiz was their star. It was at this time when Ortiz, who had just defended his title for the fifth time, a UFC record that still stands, was at the peak of his career. He was 27, and widely regarded as the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
Check back to AddictedMMA.com this weekend for Part 2 of the series, as we look at the decline of Tito Ortiz
John McCarthy quote: http://crooklynscorner.com/2011/08/big-john-mccarthy-details-why-he-decided-to-write-his-book/
Published by Jeff Zanatta - Fri, 29 Jun 2012 19:17