If you think about the biggest stars during the early and pioneering days in the UFC the names that come to your mind are the likes of Chuck Liddell, Ken Shamrock and of course, Tito Ortiz. Ortiz may just be one of the most polarizing figures in UFC history.
When Ortiz was a young teen, he began to associate with some less than reputable individuals. He got involved with gang activity and began top abuse hard drugs as a teen. However, he slowly began to get on the right track when he began to train and compete in wrestling as a sophomore in high school. Ortiz excelled at the sport and placed well in state tournaments despite the fact he hadn’t been wrestling for long.
After meeting some people in the industry and training with some fighters, Ortiz found an interest in MMA. In rare fashion, Ortiz actually made his MMA debut for the UFC at UFC 13 in 1997 and won. He largely credits former UFC Champion Bas Rutten for being his inspiration to take up MMA. For the next few years, Ortiz went on a rampage, beating almost everyone in his way and becoming a huge PPV draw and star along the way.
Despite the fact he was a huge sell for the company and one of its biggest stars, he was not very well liked among most fans. This was likely due to his very cocky attitude and the fact he always seemed to have a boatload of excuses for a bad performance or loss. It wasn’t only the fans that didn’t like him much; it was also his peers in the industry. His antics rubbed numerous fighters the wrong way and he even had a much publicized dispute with Dana White and the two rarely saw eye to eye.
And in 2008, following a loss against the undefeated (at the time) Lyoto Machida, Tito Ortiz decided not to re-sign and left the company, citing his problems with Dana White as the main reason. However, after two years of not fighting, White and Ortiz made amends and he was re-signed to the UFC.
While he was once the top fighter in the sport, it was clear he was past his prime when he returned. In fact, he lost 5 of his 6 fights in the UFC and made another (much less dramatic and publicized) exit from the UFC. He is currently fighting for Bellator, but is no longer elite and is seen as somewhat of a joke, which is a far cry from the fear he put into the hearts of his opponents in the mid-2000s.
It is fairly sad to see a guy who used to be the premier fighter in the world and a huge PPV draw fighting for a lesser promotion will much less skill in the cage. Of course, everyone ages and regresses, but MMA fans have to wish Tito went out on top and didn’t make that awful 1-5 return in the UFC.