I was sitting with my friend and co-worker, Emilio Novoa at UFC 47: It’s On – Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell ! held by the Ultimate Fighting Championship on April 2, 2004 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. We were writing article for Grapplers.com and sitting in the 3rd row of the most highly anticipated superfight in UFC history to that date. Do you remember 8 years ago? Right before Tito Ortiz lost his title to Randy “The Natural” Couture, Hall of Famer, he had defended his title 6 TIMES! I was there for everyone in Las Vegas and the room was ELECTRIC. I miss those days, because I was a Tito fan.
He used to attend Grapplers quest tournaments at Durango High School in Las Vegas in the early years, coaching 1-2 mats away from Chuck Liddell and across the room from Matt Hughes winning the 2002 Grapplers Quest West Championships Advanced Division as UFC Champion! Crazy right? How couldn’t I root for the guy who trained Grapplers Quest champions for years and did fundraisers and car washes to help raise funds for wrestling and grappling tournaments throughout California and Las Vegas. Chuck was a coach for GQ champs too – this was a tough one for me, but an awesome match nonetheless. Tito’s in-the-Octagon persona was just that, he was marketing himself, separating himself from others and then, he had a contract dispute it’s was the early days with EPIC entrances and Tito Ortiz was the UFC poster boy. He was THE FRANCHISE, the first iconic fighter to be directly associated with the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Basketball. Michael Jordan. Soccer. Pele’. Back in those days, it was UFC. TITO ORTIZ. MIXED MARTIAL ARTS. TITO ORTIZ. He fought for US last night, just 5 weeks from his last fight.
That’s the type of fighter our sports need – the guy willing to step up to the plate and take fights when their promoter comes calling, when the grappling or Mixed Martial Arts desperately needs a HEADLINER to step up and “save” an event. We need you, the fans need you, especially in the early infancy stages of grappling. Thank you Tito Ortiz for being the warrior you were last night, after submitting Ryan Bader just 5 weeks ago and fight against Rashad Evans. Despite the outcome, you earned a lot of old fans back and a LOT of new fans.
P.S. Watch Grapplers Quest on FightNow TV – check local listings at: http://FightNow.com