We live in a very hypocritical society. A society in which we love an underdog, a comeback story and second chances. We have a habit of passing judgment on people we’ve never met, and we criticize the work ethic of those we’ve never spent any time around. Yet, because of the things we read, we carry on as if we know the entire story.

When Bellator announced that Tito Ortiz would be fighting Quinton “Rampage” Jackson on the promotion’s first-ever pay-per-view, most members of the so-called MMA media immediately discounted the match-up as a money grab for each fighter. The most common words used to describe the announcement were “pathetic,” “desperate” and “washed up.” Jokes were being cracked on Twitter about both Ortiz and Jackson, yet how many of these “experts” have any idea what is truly fueling Ortiz and Jackson in agreeing to fight each other?

I love being involved with covering MMA and crossing paths with many great people in the business. Unfortunately, there is a large cluster of writers who come across as being some of the most pompous and arrogant people you’d ever care to meet. These are the writers who never admit a mistake, get defensive whenever a reader questions their opinion, and discount the opinion of others because they put themselves on a pedestal. This has never been more apparent than the articles and tweets I’ve read over the last week since the Ortiz and Jackson fight was announced.

When it all comes down to it, we are all fans of MMA. Whether we watch and write about it everyday or we just tune in for the fights, as a whole we encompass the fan base of MMA. Debates fuel the conversation of the sport just like they do in every other sport, but I just think we’re missing the big picture when it comes to labeling fighters as washed up and calling an event embarrassing immediately after it is announced.

So where does this hate for Ortiz vs. Jackson come from? In Jackson’s last three fights with the UFC, he went 0-3, but each of those events were met with a high level of interest to see “Rampage” fight. It’s no secret that Jackson’s relationship with the UFC and its president, Dana White, had been teetering on a collapse for quite some time, but he still showed up to fight and sounded remorseful towards his fans each time he lost. Jackson still has a huge fan base, and although we haven’t seen the “old Rampage” since he knocked out Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92 in 2008, we are still tuning in to watch him fight.

The knock on Ortiz is that he hasn’t been successful in quite some time. Although his record of 1-7-1 over his last nine fights makes one cringe, it needs to be pointed out that he has been facing very good opponents. It’s not like Ortiz has been given cupcakes. Although “The People’s Champ” is in the midst of a stretch of futility, he has faced some of the better fighters in the division. His last seven losses have come against:

  • Chuck Liddell
  • Lyoto Machida
  • Forrest Griffin (twice)
  • Matt Hamill
  • Rashad Evans
  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Four of Ortiz’s last seven losses went to a decision, and let’s not forget that Ortiz was on the brink of a title shot heading into his fight against Rashad Evans just two years ago at UFC 133. Ortiz took that fight on late notice and had just fought Ryan Bader one month prior. The main thing to take away from all this is that even though the losses have piled up, Ortiz is still drawing fans and still remains competitive each time he steps into the cage.

I’ll admit that I cringed while watching the third and final installment of Ortiz’s fight against Forrest Griffin. What I saw was two men moving around the Octagon and trading punches in a slow and tired fashion. It wasn’t how I wanted to remember Ortiz, and things only got worse following the fight when Griffin pulled a Kanye West and snatched the microphone from him. I remember the buzz leading up to that match-up, and it was very similar to what I’m hearing now regarding the first Bellator pay-per-view. Although many scoffed at the idea of seeing Ortiz and Griffin go at it again at that stage of their careers, the UFC still slid it into the co-main event slot and featured it on the fight poster because the promotion knew the fight was its best option (given other injuries on the card) in pairing it with the highly anticipated rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen.

Sonnen has lost three of his last five fights, by the way, and fans will no doubt tune in to watch him fight for as long as he continues, because he has made a name for himself. That’s what Bellator sees in Tito and Rampage. It’s an avenue to bring in more fans to see what the promotion is all about. Bellator is not acting desperate, as its popularity has never been greater than it is today. With Bellator’s fights and a reality show on Spike TV, it appears that the promotion is just now hitting its stride. If the pay-per-view on Nov. 2 flops, then Bellator will continue on and work to build its brand through other means. The promotion is smart enough to know that the casual fan is not going to have a party for its first pay-per-view card unless it’s headlined by a name those fans are familiar with. Fans like you and I often become so immersed in MMA that we lose sight of the fact that the bulk of fans are of the casual variety. They show up at barbecues and sports bars without knowing but a handful of the fighters by name. Those same fans do know and will be excited to see Ortiz and Jackson in the cage against each other.

As far as calling both Ortiz and Jackson washed up, that’s probably the comment that bothers me the most. Who are we, as fans or members of the media, to tell somebody they are finished? Only Tito and Rampage know if they have anything left in the tank, and they wouldn’t be taking this fight to embarrass themselves. Both fighters believe in themselves to get the job done. Both are going to put their lives on hold and go through a training camp to prep for this fight. The closest thing I can relate this to personally is sitting in a classroom and seeing a 60-year-old man as eager to learn and progress professionally as all the 20-somethings in the class. Who are we to tell that man that he can’t pursue his goals? Should we tell that man that he’s too old to have a career change? Too old to learn? Too old to strive for something better? No, of course not. That’s exactly what most are saying to Ortiz and Rampage.

Essentially, many are saying they are no longer good enough to compete. If you’re on that bandwagon, that’s fine; there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion. But if you’re going to dispel the notion that they should be fighting, then move on and talk about something else. I can guarantee that come Nov. 2, those that are cracking the jokes and saying they aren’t going to purchase the fight will be watching and tweeting with the rest of us.

We’re MMA fans, not life coaches. If these two MMA legends (yes, they are legends of the sport) want to get in the cage and put on a show for the fans, then let’s just sit back and watch it unfold. Undoubtedly, Bellator will round out the card with as good a list of fighters as it possibly can. This wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction the fight promotion had to save the company. Bellator can still have its niche market, but there is no harm in shooting for the stars to see if it can catch lightning in a bottle with Ortiz and Jackson.

The event is going to be just fine, with or without the media sticking to their agenda of bashing the efforts of everyone involved. I hope, for all of our sake, that if we ever want to pursue something later on in life, we don’t have to deal with the same childish backlash that I see being projected towards Ortiz and Rampage.

Photo: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Joe Chacon
Staff Writer

Joe Chacon is a Southern California writer that has also spent time as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, as well as a Staff Writer for Operation Sports. Joe has a passion for the sport of MMA, as well as most other sports.