UFC President Dana White has announced that "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" or now known as "The People's Champ" Tito Ortiz, will be the 9th member (8th fighter) to be inducted into the UFC Hall Of Fame. The ceremony will take place at the UFC Fan Expo preceding Tito's farewell trilogy fight against Forest Griffin. The fight will take place on the main card of UFC 148 taking place on July 7th 2012 at 10 p.m. ET at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The main event on the card is the rematch of Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen.
I without a doubt agree with this decision to add Tito to this fraternity of fighters who already have had the honor to be named as a Hall of Fame members. The list of fighters who are already inducted are Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, Ken Shamrock, Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, and Matt Hughes. All worthy members. The other member is the late Charles "Mask" Lewis, who was a co-founder of Tapout clothing.
In my opinion the main reason for Tito to be inducted is because of the fact that he literally carried the organization through the darkest period of their existence. His early beefs with the original super camp The Lions Den, which was lead by Ken Shamrock were legendary. In 1997 at UFC 13, a very green Ortiz was submitted by Lions Den member Guy Mezger. He then TKO'd other Lions Den member Jerry Bohlander at UFC 18. In his next fight, which was only his 5th fight, he avenged his 1st loss to Mezger by TKO'ing him in the 1st round at UFC 19. He then was given a title fight against yet another member of The Lions Den, Frank Shamrock at UFC 22. Tito had his moments early on the fight, but he seemed to really tire out and the superiorly conditioned and highly skilled Shamrock made Ortiz submit to punches in the 4th round. The fight was awarded as Fight Of The Year in 1999. This fight made Tito change the way he prepares for fights, becoming a cardio machine.
Shamrock then suddenly retired so the title was now vacant, and Tito and Wanderlei Silva were chosen as top contenders for the crown. The fight was set up for April 2000 in Tokyo, Japan at UFC 25. Ortiz won a unanimous decision and was the new Light Heavyweight Champion of the world. He successfully defended that belt 5 times. This is the most consecutive defenses by a Light Heavyweight champion to this day. In those defenses he submitted Yuki Kondo, KO'd Evan Tanner with an amazing slam, TKO'd Elvis Sinosic, won a decision against Vladimir Matyushenko, then TKO'd his rival Ken Shamrock. This was one of the most dominant runs in UFC history. Tito was a feared competitor who was on top of his game and was just straight up stronger, more powerful, and more explosive than anyone else by far.
After the 1st Ken Shamrock fight Tito had a 10 month layoff from the sport. The reason was he was on a collision course with friend and training partner Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell. It was a well known fact that when Tito and Chuck would spar that Chuck would get get the better of him on a daily basis. According to Tito the reason he was delaying the fight was because he was trying to get the most money possible for him and Chuck. Dana White, who at the time was the manager of Tito and Chuck felt that Tito was avoiding the showdown with Chuck because he knew that he could not beat Chuck. Liddell said when they used to train together that Tito starting not showing up for the striking portion of the sparring. Chuck knew right there that Tito wanted no part of him when it came to slugging it out with him. Since Tito was holding out, the UFC decided to move on without him and held a fight for the interim Light Heavyweight title. Chuck would get the chance for this belt against former UFC Heavyweight champion Randy "The Natural" Couture at UFC 43. This was one of my favorite fights ever. Couture won by a TKO in the 3rd round. This would set the stage for Tito to return and fight Couture to see who the real champ at 205lbs would be. Couture beat Ortiz pretty convincingly by unanimous decision. Couture even embarrassed Tito at one point in the match by giving him a little spanking on the backside when he had Tito in a controlled position on the ground.
Ortiz title run was now over, but he would still have to face Liddell. This time the fight was set for UFC 47. This fight was so hyped and anticipated by everyone. Two former friends and training partners who have been on a collision course for a few years. In the fight Tito tried to take down Chuck on 2 separate occasions. Chuck stuffed both takedowns with ease. This forced Tito to stand up with Chuck and this was not a good choice for Ortiz. Liddell TKO'd him in the 2nd with a devastating combination that made Tito collapse against the cage.
A very tough loss for Tito. I think his ego was hurt more than anything. He was used to being the guy that would overwhelm and intimidate his opponents and now there was a guy in Liddell that truly had his number. Tito would return and run off 5 straight wins against Patrick Cote, Vitor Belfort, Forest Griffin, and 2 more with Ken Shamrock. Tito's confidence was back and he seemed ready for a rematch with Chuck. Liddell was now the champ after he KO'd Couture at UFC 52. This fight would be at UFC 66. This fight had an even bigger buildup then the 1st one. Tito was doing a lot of talking saying that he lost the 1st time due to a poke in his eye that forced him to change his game plan. This fight was much more competitive. Tito's stand up was a little crisper and he was able to wrestle Chuck to the mat. By the 3rd round Liddell had Ortiz on the ground and was raining down punches until the fight was stopped. A TKO loss for Tito.
In Tito's next 7 fights he went 1-5-1. The one win came in a dramatic submission win against Ryan Bader in a fight where there was talk that Tito was about to be cut. One thing I admired about Tito's career was his ability to win when his back was against the wall. I agree with Tito's induction into the UFC Hall of Fame because of his ability to promote the sport by being such a visible and identifiable figure to the fans. He was able to hype fights better than most guys we have ever seen in the sports history. Love him or hate him you definitely knew about him. His last fight against Griffin will be an emotional fight for Tito. What Ortiz accomplished by being in the UFC for 15 years is unbelievable. That is a run that quite possibly will be hard to beat by any current fighter today. A great career for a pioneer of the sport.
Tito's induction brings up the question, of the fighters currently in the UFC today who will be locks for future HOF bids?
1- Anderson Silva - Silva is 14-0 in the UFC with 9 Middleweight title defenses. He won 2 fights at Light Heavyweight. 12 of his wins came by either KO, TKO, or submission. Recognized as pound for pound best fighter in the world.
2- Georges St- Pierre - St- Pierre is 16-2 in the UFC with 6 Welterweight title defenses. He avenged both of his losses with a TKO against Matt Serra and 2 stoppages against former champ and UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes. By the time St- Pierre is retired he will probably be recognized as the greatest Welterweight in UFC history.
3- BJ Penn - Penn is 12-7-2 in the UFC. He won titles as both a Welterweight and a Lightweight. He defended those belts a total of 3 times. Will be recognized as one of the best Lightweight champions in UFC history. His ability to be successful in 2 weight classes and 2 wins against HOF member Matt Hughes solidifies his spot in the Hall.
4 - Jon Jones - I know it is a little early to say for sure Jones will be in but he has already accomplished so much at 24 years old, he is well on his way. Jones is 10-1 in the UFC with the one loss coming by way of DQ due to illegal elbows against Matt Hamill. He has defended the Light Heavyweight belt 3 times and beat 4 straight former champions consecutively in a 13 month period.