Following Tito Ortiz’s year and a half long departure from the UFC in 2008, many speculated that the bad blood between Ortiz and UFC president Dana White would lead to Ortiz’s exclusion from the UFC Hall-of-Fame. Such an exclusion would invalidate the significance of the institution. Both his achievements as a fighter and his impact on the UFC make him as significant a figure in the history of the organization as anyone.
Ortiz is both the longest reigning light heavyweight champion in UFC history and is tied with UFC Hall-of-Fame inductee Matt Hughes for the second most title defenses during a single reign as champion. Ortiz’s successful title defenses were not against the highest caliber of fighters — among them were Yuki Kondo, Evan Tanner, and Elvis Sinosic — but he did defend the title against Vladimir Matyushenko and Ken Shamrock as well as defeat the likes of Guy Mezger, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, and Forrest Griffin.
More important than even his historic title reign and key victories is Ortiz’s impact on the business of the UFC. In 23 career fights, Ortiz’s entire career – 23 fights in total – has taken place in the UFC’s Octagon. No current UFC Hall-of-Fame inductee has that distinction, nor do any of the other potential inductees included on this list. Had Ortiz not been there to span the tournament era, the dark era during which the UFC was banned from cable pay-per-view, the TUF era, and now the Brock Lesnar era, it is entirely plausible that the UFC may never have survived into the TUF era.
Ortiz was the company’s biggest star in an era devoid of another. Ortiz’s initial match against Ken Shamrock led to a surge in pay-per-view interest with the event drawing 150k buys in a time where events rarely did more than 50k buys. His fight against Randy Couture drew nearly 100k buys. His first fight against Chuck Liddell and his fight against Belfort drew 105k each. Following the growth of the MMA audience stemming from The Ultimate Fighter, Ortiz’s match against Griffin earned a then UFC record 425k buys. Ortiz then coached against his chief rival, Ken Shamrock, for the series’ third season and set high marks for ratings in the series. It wasn’t until season 10 and the inclusion of Kimbo Slice that the Ortiz and Shamrock-led season was surpassed in the ratings.
The fight between Ortiz and Shamrock following the conclusion of the season set a new UFC buy rate record of 775k. Ortiz v. Shamrock 3 set a new record for television ratings for a UFC fight, topping out at a 4.3 rating with 5.7 million viewers tuning in to watch the culmination of the rivalry. Ortiz then once again helped to set a new standard for UFC pay-per-view success, as his rematch against Chuck Liddell was the first UFC pay-per-view event to top the one million buys threshold.
Few are either more successful in the cage or as important a figure to the business of the UFC as Tito Ortiz. The significance or Ortiz in both aspects makes him as legitimate a candidate for induction into the UFC’s Hall-of-Fame as any of the current inductees.