For nearly 20 years, the Huntington Beach Bad Boy, Tito Ortiz, has reigned high either at or near the top of any light-heavyweight MMA division, with most of that time spent fighting for the Ultimate Fighting Championships where he put together a Hall of Fame career. Now, at the age of 40, the competition is younger, and if last night’s submission loss to Bellator Light-Heavyweight Champion Liam McGeary was any indication, just flat out better.
Tito Ortiz, it’s time to go home.
It can be argued that it was time for Tito to go home back in 2006 following back-to-back decisive victories over then arch rival and fellow UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock. Those wins capped a five fight win streak Ortiz had sustained dating back to 2004 and included wins over the lies of Forrest Griffin and Vitor Belfort. Since that time, Ortiz managed only one win, a submission over Ryan Bader back in 2011 at UFC 132, in nine fights. His final fight for UFC came by way of a loss to Forrest Griffin in 2012 by way of a unanimous decision.
Ryan McKinnell of Cagewriter reports that Ortiz, making no excuses for his loss but admitting that he was “pissed” at himself, told McGeary that he had just beaten Ortiz at his 100 percent best, adding that he hadn’t felt healthier or better prepared since 2006.
“As I put the belt around your waist, I’m pissed at my performance. I gave my best Tito Ortiz; this was the best I’ve been since 2006. You had the best, you beat the best — that’s why you’re world champ.”
Unlike some older fighters at the twilight of their career who continue, presumably, to fight for the payday, Ortiz continues to prepare, train, and fight as a champion. His winning effort against Stephen Bonner in Ortiz’ second fight for Bellator only gave the false appearance that Ortiz was still capable of such dominance due to Bonner’s own lack of preparation and diminished skill. However, McGeary, once he weathered Ortiz’ first round attempts to ground and submit the champ, appeared to have no problem waiting for the aged, slowed Ortiz to leave a window open for which McGeary could capitalize, just as he did.
Ortiz, who at one time in his trademark brash, bravado charged trash talk chided elder fighters like Shamrock for sticking around too long, now finds himself in the difficult spot of evaluating his career and his place in the sport he helped make famous. Of this, Ortiz at least appears conscience, as Dann Stupp off MMA Junkie reports that Ortiz, in Bellator: Dynamite 1 post fight press conference, addressed the speculation of retirement that not one reporter had yet broached with the fighter.
“I’m still trying to lick my wounds a little bit. I can’t take nothing away from Liam. He fought the best that I can give. I had a great camp. Everything went perfect. I went out there and fought my ass off. The guy’s slick, dude. That reverse triangle – we defended that over and over. We defended triangles. We defended all the positions. He was the better man.”
“As far as me coming back, I’ll wait. I’m going to chill for a bit. I think I’m just going to enjoy this time right now. I missed out on the summer. I missed out on a lot of time with my family. And I’m 40-years-old, man. I’ve been doing this s**t for 18-and-a-half years. I’ve been through some major surgeries – back surgery, neck surgeries, knee surgeries. I’m going to let my body heal a little bit, let my mind heal a little bit. I still love training. But I just want to hang out with my kids, wake up with them, take them to school, be a dad for a bit, me and my girl Amber, enjoy life for a little bit.”
Sounds like a wonderful plan, Tito. As McKinnell points out, Ortiz set box office records and helped elevate the sport of mixed-martial-arts to a global phenomenon. He’s earned not only his spot in in MMA legend, but also the luxury of enjoying life by the pier in Huntington Beach, soaking up the sun and looking at the next stage of his career, as he continues to build his Punishment fighting empire. While Ortiz did note that Bellator felt more like home, like the old days of the UFC where everyone was “family,” and he would unquestionably make a great ambassador for the sport he helped build, the last thing he should would want to become is the very thing he claimed to detest so much, a 50-year-old former great dragging his old and battered body through yet another fight just for yet another paycheck.
In other words, Ken Shamrock.
[Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images]