Since his MMA debut at UFC 13 back in 1997, Tito Ortiz (18-11-1) has established himself as both a world champion mixed martial artist and a colorful fighter and personality, both inside and out of the cage.
And despite what can be considered a roller coaster of a career — including achieving the ultimate pinnacle while with the UFC by winning the light heavyweight championship and being inducted and then removed from their Hall of Fame, Ortiz will once again find himself vying for a title belt when he faces Liam McGeary (10-0) for the Bellator light heavyweight championship Saturday night.
This will be Ortiz’s third fight with the organization and by far his biggest fight yet. But at the ripe age of 40, what is left for Ortiz to accomplish in the fight game, win or lose against McGeary?
Ortiz has thrown hands with some of the top mixed martial artists throughout the world, and after winning the UFC light heavyweight championship over Wanderlei Silva, went on to successfully defend his belt five times. Certainly another championship belt would be a nice addition to his already impressive resume, and further solidify his legacy as a top fighter, but is there anywhere to go from there?
In the fight world we have seen top fighters extend their career beyond its limits, and in doing so suffered multiple losses to end a decorated career on a bad note. Chuck Liddell — whom Ortiz went to war with twice and came up empty in both attempts — lost five of his last six bouts, losing the final three of his career by way of KO. Another example is Ken Shamrock — who lost three times to Ortiz via TKO. Shamrock, another UFC Hall-of-Famer, lost eight of his last 10 bouts, most recently to YouTube-sensation-turned-MMA-fighter Kimbo Slice.
Fighting past their prime is one thing, but does ending their career with a negative streak of losses tarnish the legacy these fighters built throughout their career?
Only Tito Ortiz knows what he has left in the MMA game. Randy Couture is a perfect example of a fighter who fought well into his 40s, finally ending his impressive career at the age of 47, following a vicious knockout loss to Lyoto Machida. Despite that loss, Couture still reigns as one of the greatest heavyweights in UFC history.
At the age of 40 Ortiz has maintained his physical stature and looked like his old self last November when he defeated Stephan Bonnar via split decision. Fighters can get old overnight, and sometimes it happens while in the cage, and even though Father Time may be knocking at his door, Ortiz doesn’t look like he is quite ready to hang the gloves up and enter retirement.
Fighters fight, and that is something Tito Ortiz has been doing for nearly 19 years. He has never ducked any fighter, and always looked to avenge his losses. His colorful character has made him both a fan favorite and one of the most hated fighters in MMA, but that personality coupled with his sheer talent is why the game’s top fighters wanted to face him.
Saturday night’s championship bout is going to be indicative of where Tito Ortiz really is at in his career, and how much he truly has left in the tank. Even with a win, and another title belt, there’s not much left for Ortiz to accomplish in Bellator, and his UFC days are clearly over, so it might be practical to consider retirement while on top, rather than going out the way so many prior champions have before him, on their back.
Win or lose, Tito Ortiz is going to enter the cage ready to bang and put a show on as he always does, doing what he loves. Again, fighters fight, and Ortiz is going to throw hands until he can no longer do so.
Bellator MMA and Glory: Dynamite 1, Ortiz vs. McGeary will air live on Spike TV Saturday night at 9 p.m ET.