Good riddance, Tito Ortiz.

Sayonara, post-fight injury excuses. Happy retirement, Eminem walkout and flagpole. Have a good’n, loud mouth. Goodbye to the man fans either loved to cheer for or loved to boo. And I’ll admit, I was one of the latter.

As Ortiz exited the Octagon for the last time following his UFC 148 unanimous decision loss to Forrest Griffin, I was hit in the face with a reality check. No, not the same reality check that Griffin was hit with when he engaged in his first bout against Ortiz at UFC 59: Reality Check. I was hit with the reality that if it wasn’t for Ortiz, there’s a good chance I would never have written an MMA article. More importantly, if it wasn’t for him, who knows if I would even be a fan today?

Growing up as a huge wrestling fan, I had a taste for the theatrical. It was enjoyable to watch two guys batter one another, but I enjoyed the pre-fight banter just as much. It gives you a reason to tune in, and it makes the match/fight that much more intriguing. So you can imagine my curiosity heading into Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock at UFC 40.

At the time, I knew very little about the sport, but I certainly knew one thing—Ortiz was the villain. He talked a lot of trash and disrespected a legend in Shamrock leading into the bout, and he needed to be punished for it. Thus, I had a strong disdain for Ortiz.

When both men settled it in the Octagon, the greatest thing that could’ve happened, happened. Ortiz won and he continued to run his mouth frequently. My hate for him would grow, but little did I know, I was getting suckered in for future fights. Ortiz’s words to my ears was like taking candy from a baby, except in this case I was handing over my wallet.

Alas came a solution to my large-sized head problem.  That solution was  “The Iceman” Chuck Liddell. What I knew about Liddell was that he was a knockout artist with a mohawk, and quite frankly, that’s pretty cool. But I wasn’t rooting for him because of his haircut or even for his fighting style, I was rooting for him because he was my enemy’s enemy, and that made him my hero.

Stuffing takedowns and lighting him up with combos, Liddell stopped Ortiz twice with thunderous applause. After their second fight at UFC 66, I had grown addicted to the sport. Missing pay-per-views was no longer an option—at least for big fights—and honestly, one man can be held responsible for this.

You see, Ortiz might have hurt the UFC when he left the company in 2008, but the man has done so much for the sport. He was the Chael Sonnen before there was a Chael Sonnen in the UFC. He hyped fights better than everybody else and whether you loved him or hated him, you had to see his fights.

Every hero needs a villain, and Ortiz was the perfect Joker to Liddell’s Batman. Without The Joker, is there the same level of interest in Batman? Here’s a fair question—without Ortiz, would it have taken MMA longer to reach the mainstream?  Without him, who’s to say the UFC would have gotten the television deal with Spike for The Ultimate Fighter?

As a professional, I’ll remember “The People’s Champion” as a pioneer of the sport and an abrasive trash-talker. Like Sonnen, he backed it up on fight night and entertained millions.

But as a pure fan, I’ll forever be grateful to “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” for getting me hooked on the greatest sport in the world.

Photo: Tito Ortiz (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Jake Martin

Jake attends Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., where he studies Mass Communication in print and public relations. He is also the sports editor of his school newspaper, The Nicholls Worth. Jake works at the Concordia Sentinel in Ferriday, La. during the summer.