Ortiz and the flawed UFC "Hall of Fame"
June, 14, 2012
By Josh Gross
Susumu NagaoBetween the titles and the antics, Tito Ortiz's legacy should stand the test of time.Depending on the outcome of his fight against Forrest Griffin at UFC 148, Tito Ortiz will exit the Octagon for the final time carrying a 17-10-1 or 16-11-1 record.
That may not sound like the win-loss ledger of a "Hall of Fame" fighter (tell that to Randy Couture), but there's no denying Ortiz's influence on the UFC registers placement of his name alongside other all-time greats.
And so it is, the fan favorite "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" will become the eighth fighter chosen by UFC brass to gain access to an excessively exclusive club when he's inducted at the UFC expo in Las Vegas next month.
Ortiz accomplished enough over his long, important career to earn the distinction that should come with being a Hall of Famer. He put together a record reign as light heavyweight champion and gladly accepted the role as UFC's go-to fighter when Zuffa took over the company. During the first year of Zuffa's UFC ownership, Ortiz headlined three of their first four cards and tirelessly worked to sell the shows. Prior to the boom that came with Spike TV and "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show, Ortiz proved with Ken Shamrock that there was hope for UFC on pay-per-view when they clashed at UFC 40. As an aside (one that means something to me), Ortiz was never implicated in the performance-enhancing drug mess that touched so many fighters, including the aforementioned Shamrock and his compatriot Royce Gracie.
Even more impressive than Ortiz's role in building UFC was his ability and willingness to create, brand and market a bankable persona, which sometimes led to ugly, public squabbles with his promoter and former manager Dana White.
"I think he's a guy who pound-for-pound -- at the time we were hurting -- tried to do more damage to [the UFC] than anyone in the history of this company," White told MMAWeekly.com on Tuesday.
I think he's a guy who pound-for-pound -- at the time we were hurting -- tried to do more damage to [the UFC] than anyone in the history of this company.” -- UFC president Dana White, on Tito Ortiz in an interview with MMAWeekly
"Tito's never been about the company of the UFC," he continued. "Tito's been about his own brand, Punishment, and Tito Ortiz."
Ortiz has done plenty in the name of the UFC, but he also never stopped looking out for No. 1, which is something he's preached to fighters young and old, leading some people to express surprise that Ortiz was gifted with the UFC's hall blessing in the first place.
If you believe White when he says Ortiz wasn't a company guy -- disputable considering how much money he made for Zuffa -- let me ask you this: So what? Should a fighter have to be a company guy to earn what he deserves? Should White need to be "totally cool" and have "no beef with Tito whatsoever" for Ortiz to be HOF eligible?
These are reasons I choose not to regard the UFC Hall of Fame as being the same thing as hallowed grounds associated with other sports. Eventually, I hope, MMA media will come together and do it properly, though that surely won't prevent the UFC from picking and choosing who it recognizes among the best ever to compete in the Octagon. Nor should it. But I'll say this: The White-washing of the UFC "hall" is unseemly.
After all, the light heavyweight division's first champion, Frank Shamrock, can't get a sniff of it and he beat Ortiz in one of the organization's great contests, and went 5-0 in UFC competition, each bout a title fight.
Why? Because he fell out of favor with president White.
Likewise, Pat Miletich -- the organization's first welterweight champion who defended the belt multiple times and went on to mentor and train many of the Octagon's finest, including too-exclusive club member Matt Hughes.
There's no sane explanation why Ortiz should receive accolades the week leading up to his retirement bout while Shamrock and Miletich (and fighters past, present and future who dare look out for themselves, even if it means upsetting the powers that be) get frozen out. Ortiz deserves his time in the spotlight as much as they do.