Tito Ortiz has spent his entire career being the bully inside of the cage, but as the curtains draw to a close, he is serving his last days on the other end of the spectrum as the bullied.
Over a decade ago, Ortiz was the destroyer. He was the musclebound freak show that struck fear into opponents long before they ever stepped into the cage with him.
It’s hard to erase the memory of Ortiz lifting the late, great Evan Tanner into the air and slamming him into unconsciousness. The queasy feeling from hearing the sound of Tanner’s skull bouncing off the canvas may never go away.
“Let the beatings begin” was Ortiz’s motto, and there were plenty of beatings to be doled out over the course of his 18-year career. He became the modern version of former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman, who is known as the Godfather of ground-and-pound.
After getting taken to the ground, opponents were generally helpless when trapped beneath Ortiz. Closed guard, half guard, side control, north-south — it didn’t matter. When Ortiz secured any form of top position, an endless bevy of punches and sharpened elbows were sure to rain down like a torrential firestorm. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” as he was once called, was the guy many fighters avoided.
The memories from those days are eternally inked on the dusty pages of history.
But Father Time waits for no man. It is an inevitable force in this world that consumes each of us bit by bit. Ortiz, who is now 40 years old, is no longer the destroyer. He isn’t the same fighter who invoked fear into his opponents. He is simply a mortal man, physically altered by age and injuries.
After being submitted in the first round by Liam McGeary on Saturday night, the big question mark surrounding Ortiz’s MMA future didn’t even need to be asked at the post-fight press conference. It was the elephant in the room that Ortiz wasted little time addressing:
“As far as me coming back, I’ll wait [to make a decision]. 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, a lot longer than I think everybody [on the card] has been doing it. I’ve been through some major surgeries — back surgery, neck surgeries, knee surgeries.”
Ortiz’s days are finished as a contender.
We don’t need any tired stories spun about how Ortiz flicked a few jabs and secured a takedown. Let’s not beat around the bush and feign as if the legendary fighter has enough in the tank for another title run. He is 3-7 in his last 10 fights. It’s over and done — like it was for Chuck Liddell, like it was for Randy Couture and like it will be for Liam McGeary someday.
After the fight, Ortiz admitted he wanted to spend more time with his family:
“[I’m going to] let my body heal a little bit and 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 in the morning, take them to school, be a dad for a bit — have me and my girl Amber enjoy life for a little bit.”
Ortiz is still a relatively young man in life. He deserves the opportunity to live out his life and enjoy the fruits of his labor. It isn’t like he’d be hurting for a job after fighting. Any promotion or television station in the world should be chomping at the bit for his services.
Ortiz will go down a Hall of Famer, a former UFC champion and one of the modern-day pioneers of MMA. We can put an end to the Ortiz vs. Frank Shamrock and Kimbo Slice rumors.
Ortiz needs to move on from fighting, and Bellator should let him. He went out on his shield against a 32-year-old undefeated light heavyweight king, which is how the last line of his fighting career should read.
It is an ending suiting of an all-time great.