Lost in all of the Silva vs. Sonnen talk has been the retirement of Tito Ortiz. Once known simply as the sparring partner of Tank Abbot, Ortiz is now one of the most recognizable figures in pop culture. Ortiz will be fighting his last fight at UFC 148 and today I take a look at the Top 5 Tito Ortiz UFC Moments.
Tito Ortiz brings back a rich history to the octagon. I remember watching him for the first-time and the announcers mentioning that he was fighting for free to keep his amateur status. Nobody had any idea how special this younger fighter would become.
There are a lot of people that don’t like Tito Ortiz. However, there aren’t many people that don’t know who he is. Like him or not, Ortiz has arguably done the best job of self promotion in MMA. Beyond name recognition, the Tito Ortiz brand is something that continues to strengthen everyday.
Inside of the octagon, Ortiz is a legendary figure. Yet it is what Tito has brought to MMA outside of the ring that differentiates him from his peers. Ortiz admitted to me in a 2007 interview that he is influenced by professional wrestling. Ortiz is a lifelong fan and is one of the few fighters that understand hype equals interest in sports.
UFC in 2002 was nowhere near the conglomerate that it is today. The first match between these two broke 100,000 buys on pay per view. Take a look back at the industry at that time and you will understand how huge that is. The success of their first match gave UFC a much needed shot in the arm. This wasn’t a great match by any means, but an important moment nonetheless.
2 – Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock October 10, 2006. This is without question the crowning achievement in Ortiz’s MMA career. For UFC this may be the most important trilogy in the history of the company. Ortiz along with Shamrock redefined the promotional game and took UFC to new heights.
The fight was a result of a questionable stoppage in their second match. Fans were outraged by the stoppage after years of hype. Dana White turned this into one of his crowning achievements. White responded by giving fans by not only acknowledging the questionable stoppage, but giving fans the rematch for free on Spike TV.
The fight wasn’t great by any means. Like the previous two, this one was completely one-sided. Shamrock even walked to the octagon eating a cheeseburger. It wasn’t the match that made this moment so great. It was the impact on MMA that put this one at the top.
The match drew a 4.3 rating. An astounding 5.7 million viewers tuned in to see this match. Keep in mind that this was 2006 and UFC was a far cry from what it is today. Even after two one-sided fights, these two hype machines were able to draw in close to 6 million viewers. That is a great moment no matter how you slice it.
3 – Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell April 2, 2004. This was the first of their two-match series. Ortiz singlehandedly took this from a highly anticipated match to a dream match. Ortiz may have turned himself into MMA’s #1 bad guy, but the sacrifice turned Chuck Liddell into the hero of MMA.
Liddell and Ortiz were former sparring partners. Liddell reportedly gave Ortiz more than he could handle in sparring. Ortiz stalled negotiations for well over a year. Dana White and fans were outraged at Tito’s stalling. Yet in the end, the stalling turned into hype which turned into a huge success at the box office for everyone.
How can one call a loss as a great moment in someone’s career? I don’t think this one was a loss at all. Ortiz took his brand, UFC, and Liddell to a new level with his tactics. Liddell won the match via TKO. However, there was some controversy in the decision. Ortiz was poked immediately before the TKO barrage of punches. Regardless, this was truly a great moment in Tito’s career.
4 – Tito Ortiz vs. Guy Mezger March 5, 1999. This was the second match between the two and the most notable. Ironically, I don’t know how many people can remember anything about the match itself. This was a night where the post-fight activities of Tito Ortiz stole the show.
Ortiz on his own started a feud with the entire Lions Den, represented by Ken Shamrock. Mezger was a Lions Den fighter, cornered by Shamrock. Ortiz started to run his mouth before the match. Ortiz actually called Mezger a “cock” which was something unheard of in MMA at the time.
Ortiz dominated the rematch and won via TKO in the second round. The fireworks began immediately after the fight. Ortiz put on a t-shirt that read, “Gay Mezger Is My Bitch.” Ortiz subsequently gave Ken Shamrock two middle fingers and the place exploded. The seed was planted to draw close to six-million viewers seven years later.
Ortiz coached against his longtime rival Ken Shamrock. Shamrock was shown throughout the show losing his cool and calling Tito out on multiple occasions. Ironically, it was Tito who wound up keeping his cool and coming off as the better man. The attitude adjustment was pure genius in reinventing Tito into a sympathetic MMA figure.
Ortiz blew Shamrock away throughout the show with his fighters. Shamrock’s losing is now a part of the pop culture of the show. Matt Hughes said two seasons later in regards to his guys losing, “I don’t want to be the Ken Shamrock of the Ultimate Fighter.” Shamrock’s own pupils continually questioned their coaches tactics throughout the show.
The biggest surprise of all was the relationships between Tito and his guys. Tito wasn’t just their coach, but he was also their friend and mentor. Tito also told me during that 2007 interview about being screwed over early in his career by Randy Couture. Tito really takes this kind of stuff to heart. Tito completely reinvented himself the old fashioned way…by being himself.
Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader July 2, 2011
Tito Ortiz vs. Frank Shamrock September 24, 1999
Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell December 30, 2006
Tito Ortiz vs. Wes Albritton May 30, 1997
Tito Ortiz vs. Wanderlei Silva April 14, 2000
Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz square off on the Best Damn Sports Show
Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture square off on the Best Damn Sports Show
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