As the year winds down and we approach a new calendar it’s only natural to look ahead to the future. On the MMA front, the next twelve months are certain to bring entertaining bouts, new champions, major upsets, and countless other moments that will stick out in the fans’ collective conscience. However, I also see an “End of Days” coming and I’m not talking about the one the Mayans predicted. I’m talking about the conclusion of UFC icon Tito Ortiz’s storied career.
Ortiz has strayed away from saying he has a few more years left in him as of late, hinting he’s considered hanging his gloves up in recent interviews and he even announced he’d changed his long-standing nickname of “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” to “The People’s Champ” in the past few weeks. Sort of a self-serving “send off” move, no?
UFC 140 will also mark the third time he’s fought since July, his most active streak in five years, and is a decision indicating to me he’s trying to collect a few final paychecks while healthy before exploring options outside of the Octagon on a full-time basis. I believe the way he was bullied around by Rashad Evans was a wake-up call to a guy who hadn’t been finished since 2006; that he finally realized his time as a title-contender had come and gone. I think in part that’s why a fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was appealing – because the Brazilian not only had name value but isn’t among the upper-echelon of 205ers.
Win or lose this weekend I believe the 36-year old (who turns 37 in January) will don his flame-rimmed trunks again because he’ll want to give a good amount of notice before he retires in order to maximize the response from fans/media. He still isn’t in the UFC Hall of Fame yet and damn would it be marketable to have an induction right before he steps into the Octagon one last time. Even more ideal for the occasion, Memorial Day falls during the same week in 2012 as the fifteen-year anniversary of his UFC debut. With it typically being a major event weekend for the UFC already, how perfect would that particular card be as a host for Ortiz’s final fight?
If healthy, Rich Franklin would be an excellent selection given his standing in the UFC and similar status to Ortiz as a seasoned UFC veteran on the march towards life after fighting. Other than “Ace” the only other stand-out option is Forrest Griffin who Ortiz has split two Split Decisions with and who is a major draw as well as relatively beatable. It’s also a bout Ortiz has asked for so it would appease him on his way out of the promotion.
There are too many signs pointing towards Tito’s pending retirement to place any confidence to his remaining rumbles being higher than even half the number of fingers on Homer Simpson’s hand. As such, make sure to soak in his fight with Nogueira this weekend as it will be one of the last bouts in a brilliant career paving the way for today’s generation of Mixed Martial Artists and fans alike who may not be enjoying the UFC’s fruits on a regular basis were it not for Ortiz’s contributions to the sport/organization.
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PHOTO CREDIT – UFC