Tito Ortiz: A fitting induction into the UFC Hall of Fame
First, let’s get one thing clear up front: the UFC Hall of Fame isn’t exactly on par with the shrines of sports like baseball, football or hockey.
Being inducted isn’t a situation where a collection of voters deems you worthy of enshrinement. In UFC, if Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta think you’ve earn your place, in you go.
That being said, the announcement that Jacob Christopher Ortiz, better known to fight fans as “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz, will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in advance of his third bout with Forrest Griffin in July is timely and fitting. While his success may have waned in recent years as the competition got tougher and injuries began to take their toll, few fighters – if any – did more for the company during the sport’s “Dark Ages” than Ortiz.
Back before the UFC was on every weekend, there was actually a time when it wasn’t on at all, and during those years, Ortiz was one of the men doing the heavy lifting to keep the company (and, in part, the sport) from sinking. His battle with Frank Shamrock at UFC 22 remains one of the greatest fights in UFC history, though you’ll never see it mentioned as such by the company due to Shamrock’s contentious relationship with Dana White.
As the sport got back onto PPV and began working towards being accepted, Ortiz was one of the faces of the franchise, along with Ken Shamrock, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, three men he would face in multiple historic encounters throughout the early 2000s.
Personally, I think Ortiz is a victim of bad timing and the tendency to revise history as we look back in hindsight.
Though he holds the record for most fights in UFC history (26), most consecutive light heavyweight title defences (5), and most successful light heavyweight title defences (5), many people look back at Ortiz’s reign atop the 205-pound weight class and diminish his success based on who he fought, and, more importantly, who he didn’t fight. Wins over the likes of Evan Tanner, Elvis Sinosic, and Vladimir Matyushenko don’t carry as much weight or value in retrospect as wins over Liddell and Couture could have.
Considering his combined 0-3 record against the pair, people tend to discount Ortiz’s success in the early stages of his career.
The truth is, you can only beat the person that is put in front of you, and that’s exactly what Ortiz did before running into Couture at UFC 44.
Same goes for his trio of victories over Ken Shamrock. Because of the rapid decline of “The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” some people pretend as if Ortiz was facing the same shell of man who is still trying to find fights today. Shamrock was 25-7-2 when he first faced Ortiz, and though he wasn’t the same physical specimen and ferocious competitor who took part in the early UFC events, he wasn’t a slouch either.
Even after losing to Couture and Liddell in back-to-back bouts that stood as the biggest fights in UFC history at the time, Ortiz still strung together a five-fight winning streak to earn a second meeting with “The Iceman.” While that fight turned out to be the start of his lengthy run without a win, Ortiz was truly one of the most dominant, and influential figures in the UFC early in his career, and is extremely deserving of the honour he’ll receive at this year’s UFC Fan Expo in July.
Now we’ll just have to see if he can pull off another surprise victory on the Fourth of July weekend this year, so that he can ride off into the sunset on a high note.