No matter what happens in his trilogy fight against Forrest Griffin tonight at UFC 148, Tito Ortiz will leave the octagon as a UFC Hall of Famer.
“It is a huge honor to be recognized as one of the greatest fighters of all time by the UFC,” said Ortiz, who will become the eighth fighter and ninth inductee into the UFC HOF today during a noon ceremony at the UFC Fan Expo at Mandalay Bay.
“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.”
The 37-year-old Ortiz, who is just 1-6-1 in the UFC since 2006, said despite his recent slide he will leave the cage with his hand held in victory.
“God has blessed me with great things and I think he has blessed me in this fight,” said Ortiz, who won the first meeting against Griffin via a split decision at UFC 59, and lost to Griffin by split decision at UFC 106.
“I had a good training camp was able to push through and do a lot of good things. I haven’t had any hiccups since I’ve been here, everything has been perfect and I’m excited for this fight because I’m very, very confident.”
The former light heavyweight champ Griffin, who joked that he would retire from life if he lost to Ortiz in their rubber match, says he sees a similar bout playing out tonight as the first two fights.
“I think the last two fights have been pretty good,” he said. “I think it’s a pretty good matchup for both of us. I think the last fights are indicative of how this fight is going to be. I’m prepared and done a lot of things, and I’m sure he has, too.
“One thing I did take into account is, I have been training for this for a long time pretty specifically. I knew he’d be fired up, I knew it would be his last fight. I’ve heard months and months ago he’s up at Big Bear (Calif.) getting ready. Well, so am I.”
Ortiz—known as the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” for his brash attitude—didn’t always see eye to eye with boss Dana White or UFC brass on several occasions as Ortiz argued over fighter pay and conditions.
But the one thing the Mexican-American did always do was come to work and put on a show as his 26 appearances in the octagon are a promotional record.
“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,” White said.
“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.”
Ortiz—who was also the longest reigning light heavyweight champ, holding the belt from 2000-to-2003—said he wanted to be remembered for more than just his championships or legendary fights against Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture.
“I want people to remember me as an inspiration,” said Ortiz, who grew up in gang-infested Southern California with parents who battled drug addiction.
“Look at me and know you can get through anything in life and succeed no matter what God gives you and tries to challenge you with, no matter how people try to sidetrack you, you’re able to find the target and continue on to your dream. I dreamed of being the best UFC fighter to ever grace the octagon, and I think I achieved that in my 15-year career.”