Via- The UFC
The Ultimate Fighting Championship® organization is proud to confirm that Tito Ortiz – the longest-reigning light heavyweight champion of all time and one of the biggest personalities in the sport of mixed martial arts – will be the ninth individual to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
Ortiz will be officially inducted at midday on July 7 at the UFC Fan Expo, meaning he will fight the final bout of his 15-year career against old nemesis Forrest Griffin at UFC 148 on July 7 as a confirmed UFC Hall of Famer. Ortiz is the first inductee since 2010, and joins Matt Hughes, MMA pioneer Charles ‘Mask’ Lewis, Mark Coleman, Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn as well as contemporaries Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture in the pantheon of Octagon immortals.
“It is a huge honor to be recognized as one of the greatest fighters of all time by the UFC,” Ortiz said. “To be inducted into the Hall of Fame is final proof that all the hard work and dedication, all the pain and sacrifices, were all worth it. To be able to walk to the Octagon one last time as an official UFC Hall of Fame level fighter is going to be humbling and awesome. I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to end my career on such a high like this.
“I want to thank my family for all their love and support and my fans for sticking with me through the bad times when being a Tito Ortiz fan wasn’t the coolest thing to be. Finally, I want to thank Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White for giving me so many opportunities over the years and for securing the future of the sport I love and have dedicated my life to.”
A brash, polarizing presence with bleached blonde hair and devastating takedowns, Ortiz made his UFC debut on May 30, 1997 at UFC 13. He smashed an entrant named Wes Albritton in 31 seconds and, within three years, had annexed the UFC light heavyweight title by beating the also soon-to-be legendary Wanderlei Silva. The Huntington Beach Bad Boy would go on to reign for a record three and a half years and had some of the biggest fights of his or any other era.
UFC President Dana White said: “Everyone knows the story of me and Tito and all the things that went on between us. A lot of it wasn’t fun at the time, but all that controversy and craziness is now part of the story of the UFC, and there’s no question that in his prime he was a huge star and one of the greats of his era.
“You can’t write the story of this era of mixed martial arts without Tito Ortiz, and that’s why he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He’s been in the UFC for 15years – and sticking around that long is an achievement in itself – and now he’s down to just 15minutes at UFC 148. Believe me, I know how proud and stubborn this guy is and I expect him to use everything he has left as a fighter to go out as a winner at UFC 148.”
UFC Chairman & CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said: “Tito is part of the fabric of our sport and of the history of our company. He’s given his life to mixed martial arts and gave all of us some hugely memorable moments as both a fighter and a personality outside the Octagon. He was a lock to go into the UFC Hall of Fame at some point, and I’m happy we could make this happen now so he gets to enter the Octagon for the final time as a reigning Hall of Famer. I think this will be an emotional goodbye for Tito and one final special moment for his fans.”
Ortiz aims to leave UFC 148 – and his career – as a winner.
“My name will probably always be linked with guys like Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell and especially Ken Shamrock,” Ortiz said. “But the fights with Forrest were as good and competitive as any of them. When I first fought him, he was inexperienced and made a name for himself in doing so well against me. The next time we fought I was supposed to be over the hill, and I showed that I wasn’t finished by long shot.
“Now, I just want to prove I was the better fighter all along by winning the rubber match. I don’t want to go out on a sour note – I want everyone’s last image of me to be me in the center of the Octagon with my hand raised.”