By Mark Carrillo:
Throughout Tito Ortiz’s 15 year career in the UFC, he has managed to make himself one of the most loved, and hated athletes in the sport. MMA fans seem to either be cheering for Ortiz at the top of their lungs, or screaming for his opponent to knock his head into the second row.
There seems to be no in-between. Ortiz, who is three months away from the final fight of his long roller coaster ride of a career, was quoted in a recent interview in Sweden as saying, “boxing had Muhammad Ali, professional wrestling had Hulk Hogan, and mixed martial arts has Tito Ortiz.”
This most definitely didn’t change the minds of any of those that despise him. However, it would be absolutely impossible to convince a supporter of Ortiz that he isn’t the Ali or Hogan of MMA.
Ortiz fans seem to see a completely different man than those who hate him. They see a man that loves his fans and fights his heart out for them every time he steps into the octagon. His enemies see a selfish man, years past his prime that walked away from the UFC when they needed him most, only to come crawling back when he needed a paycheck.
When his fans hear him say, “I’m a legend…I’m an icon of the sport”, they believe it, and agree with him one-hundred percent. His enemies couldn’t disagree more; and honestly it can be hard to argue that he isn’t a legend or an icon, he was one the UFC’s first superstars. No matter whom he was fighting people watched.
Fans, old and new to the sport, were tuning in to see him. Sure some of those people wanted to see him get knocked out every time the caged door closed behind him, but some of them wanted him to win and hold on to the light-heavyweight title forever. Either way, people were tuning in to see Tito Ortiz fight and in the beginning every ass that the UFC could get in a seat and every pay-per-view that it could sell was a huge step in the right direction.
He can easily be compared to Hogan in this respect; he helped the UFC grow much like Hogan helped professional wrestling. Is he an Ali though? His enemies will say that Ali never went on a 5 year losing streak, and he backed up his trash talk in the ring. While Ortiz was all hype, and just trying to sell a fight. However, much like Ali, Ortiz was either loved or hated; there was no “oh, I kind of like him” when it came to these two men. The answer to the question: is Ortiz the Ali or Hogan of MMA? That depends on if you’re a fan or him or not.