Over the weekend, Tito Ortiz announced that his scheduled bout with Chael Sonnen at Bellator 170 on January 21 in Inglewood, California would be his last.
It feels fitting that ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ will go out with a real test against the returning Sonnen.
One of the pioneers of the game, Ortiz was among the first fighters to launch his own clothing line, Punishment Athletics. He also brought a new flair for marketing to the forefront during his time as the UFC’s light heavyweight champion, where he held the record for most title defenses with five until he was later bested by Jon Jones’ tally of nine.
Ortiz became synonymous for his personalized t-shirts that would carry messages for his future opponents. At one stage in his career he used to them to show his disdain for the powers that be in the UFC, when he donned a shirt with ‘Dana is my bitch’ scrolled across it before he faced Lyoto Machida.
Before Conor McGregor was winding his opponents up to the point of no return during press conferences, Ortiz had the art mastered. Famously, without even using words, he managed to force a violent reaction from Ken Shamrock by laughing in his face after the legend promised to beat him into a “living death” at UFC 40.
Ortiz also became one of the first UFC fighters to have a signature celebration, and it fitted his outspoken character perfectly, as he simulated digging the graves of his beaten opponents.
Through his marriage to adult entertainment actress Jenna Jameson, Ortiz became one of the first MMA fighters to transcend the sport into popular culture, even if their union didn’t end on the most civil terms.
All Eyes on Tito
‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ announced that the January 21st bout would be his “final fight” in a tweet that was sent out on Saturday night. Although he has been known to have a tumultuous relationship with Dana White, Ortiz thanked the UFC and Dana White after he postponed their scheduled event in Anaheim on the same night of Bellator 170, which obviously had nothing to do with allowing its rival to have a captive MMA audience on the night.
However, with UFC postponing the Anaheim card due to the lack of champions available to compete on what would have been their UFC 208 event, it is likely that Ortiz and Sonnen would have captured the attention of the masses anyway.
As Bellator have proved with the likes of their matchups pitting Ken Shamrock vs Royce Gracie, there are still enormous amounts of people that tune in to see the stars of yesteryear compete. When the two fighters met each other for the third time 21 years after their last meeting at UFC 5, they drew an average audience of 1,964,000 viewers over the three-hour broadcast. The event’s numbers spiked during Kimbo Slice’s bout against Dada 5000 with 2.5 million, with the main event between Gracie and Shamrock taking in just slightly fewer viewers with 2.4 million.
The swan song of Ortiz’s certainly deserves the attention of the masses, and Chael Sonnen will likely be a very hard man to get the better of. While there is no denying the caliber of fighter Ortiz was in his heyday, he has come under a lot of criticism since he signed with Bellator back in 2013.
Time to Go
There is no better evidence than it being time to go for Ortiz than his “war of words” with Sonnen in the lead up to Bellator 170. The California native used to be able to wax lyrical about anything to do with the fight game, but during the press conference for Bellator 170, he didn’t even offer a good insult in the direction of Sonnen.
To make matters worse, the Bellator 170 press conference directly followed the UFC 205 press conference on November 3, and both Ortiz and Sonnen paled in comparison to what was put forward by the biggest star in the sport, Conor McGregor.
Of course, there was the infamous Ortiz vs Bonner announcement as well. Many MMA fans were disgusted by the attempts of the light heavyweight pairing to introduce a fabricated storyline, which included a former training partner of Ortiz’s wearing a mask in the middle of the stage while the fight was being confirmed.
There have inevitably been some slip-ups for Ortiz as he approaches his last ever contest, but that shouldn’t stop us from tuning into the man who has been must-see TV since the early noughties.
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