"I put my heart, soul and body into this sport," Ortiz said at the time. "I've had ACL surgery, back surgery, neck surgery, a meniscus tear. When people ask me, 'Why you retiring?' I'm retiring because it's time."
If only the Tito Ortiz of 2013 would have listened to the Tito Ortiz of 2012.
I'm not here to make cruel jokes at Ortiz's expense in the wake of the news that Ortiz suffered a serious injury in training and had to pull out of his planned Bellator fight with fellow former champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson on Nov. 2. A fractured neck is an injury I wouldn't wish on anyone.
If the unverified numbers which made the rounds among media types this week about what Ortiz was scheduled to make for the fight are even in the ballpark, well, put it this way: You would have come out of retirement, too.
But hopefully Ortiz takes his latest injury as a sign that enough is enough.
"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" finally had his karma correct when he took the stage to accept his UFC Hall of Fame plaque just over a year ago. The sins of the past had been forgiven. He had won back skeptical fans with his inspirational upset of a younger and healthier Ryan Bader at UFC 132. He seemed to finally make peace with Dana White after stepping up on short notice and meeting Rashad Evans just two months later and took a Fight of the Night bonus in his loss. Ortiz transitioned from fading fighter to elder statesman.
The long and heartfelt ovation Ortiz received from the fans at the UFC Fan Expo that day -- not to mention that night, when he was arguably robbed of the decision in his trilogy fight with Griffin -- showed the pioneer of the sport had come around with the fans, as well.
If only Ortiz had left well enough alone.
It's easy for those of us who have never been in a fighter's shoes to tell them it's time to hang ‘em up. We've never felt the intoxication of the bright lights, the attention, the money, the rush of having 15,000 fans chanting your name. It can't be easy to walk away.
Especially when you're in a position like Ortiz has been over the past year. He had both neck and ACL surgery and suddenly found himself feeling better than he'd felt in years. Your mind starts cranking. You start thinking about how you weren't getting blown out of your fights. How you could have gotten the decision against Griffin. How you almost got the late submission against Lyoto Machida. You come to the conclusion you've still got something left in the tank.
And that doesn't even take non-fight matters into account. The very public marital troubles with estranged wife Jenna Jameson. The management career, which hasn't exactly gotten off to a gangbuster start, as his top client, Cris Cyborg, remains outside Zuffa while women's MMA experiences its golden age. Another run in the spotlight would make it all go away for awhile.
All understandable. Still shouldn't have come back.
Have you noticed we haven't heard a heck of a lot from Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in recent weeks? Sure, he spoke up about his perceived slights at the hands of the UFC when he signed with Bellator earlier this year. But after the Ortiz fight was signed, Jackson more or less stopped with the negative chatter. Say what you will about Jackson vs. Ortiz, but if nothing else, "Rampage" appeared to have his head in the right place as he prepared for the bout.
You can't say the same for Ortiz. Starting with the August press conference in Newport Beach, Ortiz seemed more concerned with bashing the UFC than focusing on his new company. On Twitter and in seemingly every media appearance he made, Ortiz bashed White and the UFC, the people who had made nice with him in his public sendoff last year. For the money it took to lure Ortiz out of retirement, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney had to wonder when his new marquee star was going to focus on the present.
That's moot now, since Ortiz had to pull out of the fight. If anyone aside from Ortiz, Jackson, and their respective accountants were disappointed by the fight's cancelation, they haven't been speaking up. Rebney now gets to take was what shaping up as a sure money loser and repurpose it into the best fight card, by far, he's ever put on free TV, and focus on what promises to be a killer lightweight title fight between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez.
Ortiz and Rebney have tried to sound positive about Ortiz's eventual return. But the facts remain stark. Ortiz is 38. He'll turn 39 in January. He's only won once in his past nine fights. He's added another serious injury to a lengthy list.
Your body's trying to give you a hint, Tito. Please don't come back this time.