Tito Ortiz took one step closer to his inevitable retirement on Saturday with a crushing first-round submission loss to Bellator light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary.
McGeary (11-0) weathered an early ground and pound attack from “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” and latched on to a fight-ending triangle choke at 4:41 of the opening frame.
“I worked really hard for this camp,” said Ortiz post-fight with tears welling in his eyes. “I gave my heart and soul for 18 and a half years in this cage and this sport of MMA. I am a legend, I was a legend – or whatever people say – [McGeary] showed he was a real man tonight.
He continued, “As I put the belt around your waist, I’m pissed at my performance. I gave my best Tito Ortiz; this was the best I’ve been since 2006. You had the best, you beat the best -- that’s why you’re world champ.”
McGeary, pleased with his performance, didn’t say much when asked to dissect his win over the UFC Hall-of-Famer.
But that does not mean he lacked confidence.
“I work on my wrestling and I’m going to be unstoppable,” McGeary said.
Next, McGeary will meet former UFC star Phil Davis at an undisclosed place and time. Earlier in the night, Davis emerged victorious in the return of the one-night tournament, defeating Emmanuel Newton and Francis Carmont. With the two wins, Davis supplanted himself as the next No. 1 contender in the light heavyweight division.
Ortiz’s future is much more confusing. At age 40, and with a dismal 3-8-(1) record since 2006, the MMA legend is running on fumes. His heart is still there, evidence by his physique and flashes of effectiveness. However, Tito Ortiz is running out of chances to compete at the highest level.
Heading into the McGeary fight, Ortiz was a (kind) 4-to-1 underdog to the undefeated Brit. And, yes, Ortiz looked effective during his ground work over McGeary, but as the fight-ending submission kind of highlighted, you got the feeling McGeary was just biding his time and waiting for Ortiz to slip up.
Ortiz has been slipping up a lot in recent fights. His fight before McGeary was a sloppy, plodding fight against Stephan Bonnar, and really, it should have been enough to call it quits. Now, after another disappointing setback to McGeary, it’s time for Ortiz to start thinking about life after fighting.
It’s never an enviable task to push a fighter one step into the combative grave, but Ortiz has nothing left to prove. He was one of the most dominant light heavyweight champions in UFC history, and without Tito Ortiz, the UFC would not be where it is today.
In the early 2000s, while the UFC was being pushed off pay-per-view, and shunned by athletic commissions, venues, and entire states, Ortiz was the face of the company – hell, the face of the sport.
He battled names like Couture, Liddell, and Belfort, all the while entertaining fans with his snappy mic work and ability to generate controversy.
His fight with Ken Shamrock at UFC 40 in Nov. 2002 was the first MMA fight to eclipse 100,000 buys on PPV – which, at the time, was an unthinkable accomplishment.
Later, at UFC 66 in Dec. 2006, against arch-nemesis Chuck Liddell, Ortiz would break the coveted 1,000,000 PPV mark – a number that is still, to this very day, the benchmark for all fighters.
Now, after almost 20 years as a professional fighter, his journey is complete.
He won’t be fighting for any titles. He won’t be topping any pound-for-pound lists.
He will just be collecting a check.
So, with that plainly obvious, it begs the question: What’s the point?
You’ve done it all, Tito. The sport of mixed martial arts thanks you.
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