Retirement is a difficult subject in sports.
No fan wanted to see Brett Favre step on the field in a New York Jets uniform and Michael Jordan as a Washington Wizard isn’t a fond sight for Chicago Bulls fans.
But MMA is different. The athlete doesn’t change teams, or betray a fan base. Instead, fighters tend to hang around long past their time, grasping on with the hopes of remaining relevant. Just look at Ken Shamrock.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz is different.
Ortiz, once the promotion’s greatest asset, is set to hang up his gloves following his UFC 148 co-main event rematch against Forrest Griffin this Saturday, and he’s doing so for all the right reasons.
It isn’t because he can’t compete, or because his body won’t allow him to carry the workload associated with such a grinding occupation. Instead, Ortiz is calling it a career to be with his family and focus on life outside of the Octagon.
But before “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” rides off into the Las Vegas sunset, and into the UFC Hall of Fame, he has some people to thank.
“I’ve been able to achieve the things I’ve always dreamt of,” Ortiz told HeavyMMA. “The fans are the ones that always had my back to get to that point. Their the ones that told me, when I did lose, ‘Pick it back up, Tito. Get back on the horse and do it again.’ And I was able to do that.
“This sport has been the fastest growing sport in the world today. Thanks to Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White, Frank Fertitta for making this sport an opportunity for us fighters, to expose it for what it truly is.”
Ortiz has always been, if nothing else, loyal to his fans, who have consistently returned the favor. Now, walking away from the sport, he knows they will follow him into the next stage of his life.
Planning on taking his talents to the big screen, Ortiz says he will be taking acting classes, since he only lives 30 minutes away from Hollywood, stating, “Instead of using my brawn now, I’ll use my brains.”
But before he gets ahead of himself, Ortiz looks forward to his Saturday fight; the last time his fans will see him in the cage.
The moment after the final bell is sure to be an emotional one for the former champion, who hopes that the fans will always remember him as an inspiration.
“(I want them to remember me) as being an inspiration in their lives, one way or another. Keeping in shape, training, something. Just know it’s not as tough as it really is. Things could get a lot worse. Just (for them to be) able to prevail through anything. I was able to do that through my career and I’m very lucky because of it”.
Check out what Forrest Griffin had to say about retirement and Tito Ortiz